AGL nears foreign player quota decision

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Al Ain hero: Ghanian striker Asamoah Gyan is one of the expats plying his trade for Al Ain.

The UAE Football Association’s board of directors will meet on September 23 to announce the fate of the proposed extension to the country’s foreign allocation to five players.

At present, each club must adhere to the three-plus-one-Asian policy regarding expats on the pitch.

Arabian Gulf League and Division One clubs voted unanimously in support of a proposal to increase the quota of foreign players at June’s general assembly. 

The plans would see them able to stock five non-Emiratis in their squads, but still use only four foreign players on the pitch, with the Asian Football Confederation’s rule that one of them must be Asian-qualified also scrapped.

The UAE FA’s technical committee has discussed the proposals over the last three months. The clubs have been involved in the investigatory process, ahead of the final announcement in a fortnight’s time.

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Fardan aims to fulfil title dream at Al Ahli

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Hot property: Al Ahli unveiled Habib Al Fardan yesterday.

New Al Ahli signing Habib Al Fardan believes his quest for a first domestic title will be fulfilled this season now that he has joined the Red Knights.

The UAE international was yesterday unveiled at the Rashid Stadium after completing a move from Al Nasr, which he had joined in 2009. 

Al Fardan, 23, was the hottest property on the market this summer and following months of speculation, the midfielder finally inked a deal that will keep him at Ahli for four years.

Throughout his five seasons with the Blue Wave, Al Fardan only captured one title – the GCC Club Cup.

While he has had more success on the international stage, having participated in the London 2012 Olympics and being part of the UAE’s Gulf Cup-winning team in Bahrain last year, he admits his dream of winning a maiden local competition has driven him to choose the Arabian Gulf League champions, who pulled off an impressive treble last season. 

“This year the challenge will be big for us. Last season Ahli won three titles so this year they’ll be looking to defend these titles. We also have the Asian competition. For me, it will be a new challenge. Until now, I have never won a domestic title and this year my ambition is to win my first title with Ahli,” said Al Fardan.

“At the end of the day, any player dreams of winning a title, domestically or internationally. I think Ahli has bigger chances to win titles, the environment at the club, the coach, the players… all the factors are there in order for us to win championships.”

Al Fardan might need to fight for his spot amongst a strong Ahli midfield that includes the likes of Luis Jimenez, Mirel Radoi and Majed Hassan, but he insists he is up for the challenge.

“It’s an honour to play with the huge players available at Ahli. I know most of them well because they are my team-mates in the national team,” he added. 

“This strong competition between us will only benefit the team. Ultimately, the coach (Cosmin Olaroiu) is the one who will be making decisions on who will start.” 

Al Fardan, who started his career by progressing through the ranks at Al Wasl, made 25 appearances for Nasr last season, scoring nine goals.

He says he was planning on staying at Nasr to complete the year he had left on his contract but was surprised when he received numerous offers during the summer.

Ahli CEO Ahmed Khalifa Hammad, was happy the talented midfielder opted to move to the Rashid Stadium and believes he will prove to be a great asset for the club.

“Habib needs no introduction as a player whether at club level or national team level. We’re happy he’s joining our host of stars at Al Ahli and are certain he will be a vital part of our team,” said Hammad.

“I think this is a deal that had lots of chatter and media coverage around it. Today, following the return of the national team from their camp in Europe, we can confirm that Habib will join the team in their training session this afternoon.”

Asked whether the Fardan signing was more to make sure that no other team would scoop him, Hammad said: “All clubs strive to improve their squads. In the transfer market, some players came to Ahli, others left. Professional football is about the transfer market. It’s not about preventing other teams from having top players.

“We would never sign a player just for the sake of it. We signed him because we believe he will improve our squad.”

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Jazira fan recovering after fall

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Horrific incident: An Al Jazira fan fell as a railing collapsed when they faced Sydney Western Wanderers.

The fan who fell from the Military Stadium stands cel­ebrating Al Jazira’s IPIC Cup success left the hospital yes­terday, the club confirmed.

The supporter was given instant medial care and whisked away in an ambu­lance after a railing collapsed in the stadium on Sunday night, leading to a shudder­ing 20-foot fall.

“The patient has left hos­pital and is feeling well,” a Jazira spokesman said.

The incident in the capital followed a 2-1 defeat to West­ern Sydney Wanderers in the final game of the pre-season tournament, which saw the Pride of Abu Dhabi lift the trophy on goals scored after they beat East Riffa 4-1 and the Australians lost 2-1 to the same opponents last week.

UAE trip delights Popovic

Western Sydney Wanderers’ pre-season trip to the UAE has pro­vided “great preparation” for their impending AFC Champions League semi-final, according to head coach Tony Popovic.

The former Crystal Palace defender’s side travelled to the Emirates during the A-League off-season, finishing second in the three-team IPIC Cup to Al Jazira despite beating the hosts 2-1 on Sunday night. WSW will head back to Australia tomorrow, a week before the first leg at FC Seoul, with victory in the tie leading to a poten­tial final meeting with Al Ain if they in turn overcome Al Hilal.

Despite the possible clash with the Boss, Popovic insisted the trip was made with only domestic preparations in mind. He said: “We organised this three months ago, before we knew we’d be in the semi-finals. This year we have come here for pre-season, it’s coincidental.

“It has been great exercise for us, trying to get used to these condi­tions. Fortunately, we come away with no injuries and it is great prep­aration for our semi-final.”

WSW pulled off a huge shock in the last round, dumping out a Guangzhou Evergrande, and Popo­vic added: “The mood in the camp since beating Guangzhou has been fantastic. We hope this trip, come September 17, will show how worth­while it was.”

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