Right-back says he is enjoying life in the UAE capital

Matt Jones 19/02/2017
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Credit: Mohammed Fawzi - Twitter

Al Jazira have been head and shoulders above the rest of their rivals this season, but right-back Mohammed Fawzi wants the Pride of Abu Dhabi to transfer their domestic form onto the continent.

The Arabian Gulf League leaders have been imperious in sweeping to the top of the table following a dreadful 2015/16 campaign that had promised much but saw them eventually limp home in seventh – a distant 29 points behind eventual champions Al Ahli.

This season, however, they have been mesmerising. Henk ten Cate’s men have lost just once in 19 games – a 2-0 defeat to Al Nasr in December, and they are nine points clear of the second-placed Red Knights with seven games remaining.

But, as the Abu Dhabi giants get set to kick off their 2017 AFC Champions League campaign at Qatar’s Lekhwiya on Monday, UAE international Fawzi hopes they can mix with Asia’s finest after a woeful 2016 campaign.

“The Champions League is something different for me and the players and we are waiting for this competition,” said the 26-year-old, who arrived at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in the summer from AGL rivals Al Ain.

“First we have to play well to represent our country and then to show all the people that UAE football is good. It’s also about how you market yourself in Asia, lots more people will be watching us and this is what the players need.

“I hope Al Jazira do well in the competition, like we are doing in the league, and I am excited to start the Champions League.”

Amid their struggles last term, Jazira capitulated in the Champions League, finishing rock bottom of Group C with just one point – posting the competition’s second worst record after Thailand’s Buriram United.

But Fawzi insists the players are not thinking about last season.

“We didn’t turn back and look at what happened last year, we don’t think about it,” he added.

“We just have to not think about last year. This year is different. Jazira have young players who are hungry to play and win each game. I’m happy because they are helping me since coming here and I’m excited to start.”

And, even before a ball is kicked, Fawzi admitted the capital city club have ambitions to go far in Asia’s premier competition.

He added: “For me I want to go far. I want to go far in each competition, whatever it is, even if it’s PlayStation. This is what we like at Jazira. We want to go far and this mindset is how we can be successful.”

Fawzi has played at the UAE’s three biggest clubs in his relatively short career – Ahli, Al Ain and now Jazira – but he was either too young or too much of a bit-part player to really establish himself at either the Red Knights or the Boss.

Despite winning an AGL medal with both Ahli in 2008/09 and Al Ain in 2014/15, Fawzi, 27 on Wednesday, knew he had to make a change, which was behind his decision to uproot from the Garden City in the summer.

“I came here to fight, to win, to be a champion,” added Fawzi.

“Maybe when I was at Al Ain I played but not much because of injury, but this is something different here. You have to think about yourself sometimes, but wherever you go you have to fight. If what you do doesn’t come good you have to change. This is normal.

“I am happy to be with my brothers and with my friends at Jazira and I hope they are as happy as me. We are looking forward and inshallah we will do something different in the Champions League compared to last season.”

And the maturing defender acknowledges that with exciting youngsters like Khalfan Mubarak, Saif Khalfan, Salim Rashid, Mohamed Jamal and Ahmed Al Attas around him, he is in a position to offer advice to the next generation.

He added: “Is it the happiest season in my career? I don’t know because I was also a champion with Al Ahli. It’s a better season for me. I’m taking responsibility in the team now, so in that sense it’s my best year.

“Now I’m 26. Before I was young and I had older, big players helping me. Now I am one of the senior players so I have to take my brothers with me. It’s different. It’s not better, not worse, but different, and it means a lot to me (to be playing regularly).”

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Kalba boost survival bid with point

Matt Jones 19/02/2017
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A missed Fabio De Lima penalty and conceding two minutes after they had made the breakthrough tells the tale of Al Wasl’s fading Arabian Gulf League title hopes.

In reality this point could have easily been a defeat had former Al Ahli forward Ciel not squandered two guilt-edged chances for Ittihad Kalba, who edged closer to survival with a 17th point from 19 games.

From the moment usually prolific Brazilian talisman De Lima fired his tame spot kick at Kalba goalkeeper Ibrahim Essa, you could feel an air of unease sweep across Zabeel Stadium.

They were euphoric when Ronaldo Mendes opened the scoring with a deserved goal 15 minutes into the second half, tucking in neatly after Caio Canedo’ had bamboozled opposite number Ali Saeed.

It was, after all, Mendes who had won the first half penalty after being wiped out by clumsy centre back Yasser Abdullah, before rocking the Kalba crossbar with a fierce, dipping drive after finding space on the edge of the box.

But, just as the noise levels began to rise they were silenced by a truly magnificent goal from one-time West Ham striker Modibo Maiga.

The 29-year- old majestically controlled a long ball, before shrugging off his marker, turning and firing in a crisp equaliser under Humaid Abdulla.

The Cheetahs’ fans fumed but it could have been far worse. Ciel ballooned horribly over after being set clear in the first half by a beautiful first-time pass, while the Brazilian again skewed wide when released in the 74th minute.

De Lima, uncharacteristically off colour in front of goal, wasted another glorious chance on the stroke of half time, his weak effort parried by the alert Essa.

The man with 20 AGL goals to his name this season must have thought redemption was his with nine minutes remaining but his beautiful arced shot beat Essa but also the far post.

There was still time for a Kalba winner but Wasl skipper Waheed Ismail recovered brilliantly to thwart Bakary Kone after the hosts had failed to clear.

Mendes brought a late save out of Essa, with Caio unable to prod the rebound home, with the result leaving the Cheetahs 10 points adrift of Al Jazira with seven games remaining.

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IN PICS: 10 haircuts UAE FA would deem 'unethical'

Brendon Netto 15/02/2017

Al Ahli striker Asamoah Gyan has been named among over 40 Arabian Gulf League players deemed to have "unethical hair" according to United Arab Emirates Football Association (UAEFA) guidelines.

The former Al Ain man's hairstyle is said to violate Islamic teachings that ban 'Qaza' hairstyles, such as mohawks where parts of the head are shaved.

The UAE FA has sent warning letters to the clubs of the players pulled up. A total of 46 AGL players have been warned, 33 from other tiers down to U21s. If the players don't comply by the start of the next round of fixtures, fines will be issued and unspecified bans handed out if it carries forward into following rounds.

Football website Ahdaaf reports that Al Wahda's Suhail Al-Mansoori was among the players named while 2016 Asian footballer of the year Omar Abdulrahman, sporting a nearly identical hairstyle, was exempt. Apart from Al-Mansoori and Gyan, the list of players include Leonardo, Saif Al Muqbali, Modibo Maiga, Abdulla Mohammad, Khaled Ali, Ali Saeed and Ahmed Amer. In the gallery above, we look at 10 crazy hairstyles in football that would be barred by the UAE FA. Which one do you think is the most outrageous? Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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