Al Ain boss Zoran Mamic has insisted it is in the “best interest” of UAE football that he has retained a number of international stars for the Arab Club Champions Cup first-round decider against Algeria’s ES Satif.
An eligibility row broke out after a threat was made to withhold all nine call-ups – a figure that excludes unattached superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman – from the Whites’ external training camp in Austria from August 1-18. This meant a strong side from the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup holders went down 2-1 in Tuesday’s opening leg at Zagreb’s Stadion Maksimir.
A compromise was then reached which means utility defender Mohamed Ahmed, centre-back Mohanad Salem and anchor man Ahmed Barman will be missing for Saturday’s clincher.
“It is in Emirates football’s best interest that we created a deal in the spirit of one team,” said Mamic. “This is because our goals are shared about the preparation of players to face the challenges both at club and international level.
“We will show the best that we have and we look forward to a superior performance.”
One player who could feature for the first time in pre-season is 36-goal striker Marcus Berg. He is ready to be unleashed after helping Sweden make the quarter-finals in World Cup 2018.
In midweek, veteran forward Ibrahim Diaky put Al Ain ahead from the penalty spot.
But Algeria playmaker Abdelmoumene Djabou then converted a low cross in the latter stages of each half to hand an advantage to the Ligue Professionnelle 1 champions.
A strong Boss outfit lost 2-1 to Algeria’s ES Setif in the first-leg of the competition, switched to a knockout format this year, in Zagreb on Monday.
The Arab Football Federation has warned that both club and the UAE Football Association could face action as Zoran Mamic fielded a number of UAE national team players despite the fact the game came within the window of an international fixture, with the Whites due to meet up for a training camp in Austria later this month.
Goalkeeper Khalid Essa, defenders Ismail Ahmed, Mohamed Ahmed, Bandar Al Ahbabi, midfielders Amer Abdulrahman, Rayan Yaslam and Ahmed Barman all featured in the Croatian capital, which could land the club in hot water.
“The player stays with his club during the period of preparation for the football season because it is better to fight a challenge such as today’s instead of playing a match against a third-class team in Austria,” said Mamic of the threat of action.
“I do not think there is a team in the world who adopts such decisions that deprive the player of good preparation with his club before the start of the season without justification.
“I also heard that the UAE team in the past decided to put the players in a 40-day preparation camp which makes no sense.
“I am not responsible for the development of laws but I am working to protect my team and myself and the club to which I belong and I’m willing to do whatever contributes to the achievement of our goals.”
The Boss took the lead in the opening leg of the round of 32 clash, with veteran midfielder Ibrahim Diaky netting from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute.
But 13-times capped Algeria midfielder Abdelmoumene Djabou bagged a second half brace to earn Hacene Hemmar’s side a crucial win ahead of the second-leg, to be played again at Zagreb’s Stadion Maksimir, on Saturday.
Lima, 22, was confirmed as the latest of his countrymen to join the Cheetahs ranks late on Monday night. Electric attackers Fabio De Lima, Caio Canedo and Ronaldo Mendes are already on the books of last term’s third-placed finishers.
“I am very happy to join Al Wasl and experience a new career in the Arabian Gulf League,” Lima said.
“I am very enthusiastic about representing the team and playing alongside my Brazilian compatriots.”
New eligibility rules for 2018/19 have dropped the requirement in the top flight for one of the non-Emirati quartet to be Asian qualified.
This rule still remains in place for the 2019 AFC Champions League, meaning only three of the Brazilians can be selected for the elite club competition.
Mendes seems the obvious candidate to drop out of the continental tournament, with the club confirming new coach Gustavo Quinteros has “closed the foreign players’ file”.
Lima has been attached to Gremio since 2013. He featured in both legs of February’s victory against Argentina’s Independiente in the Recopa Sudamerica.
In league competitions since making his debut for Imortal Tricolor in May 2017, he’s gone goalless in 19 appearances.
Previous loan moves have been undertaken at Spain’s Mallorca in the Segunda Division for 2015/16 and Serie B’s Ceara in his homeland during 2017.
Lima takes the spot occupied last term by Anthony Caceres. The Australian midfielder experienced an underwhelming loan spell from Manchester City.
Wasl have previously landed UAE anchor man Khamis Esmail from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and Al Ain’s colt striker Yousef Ahmed.
But a pre-season knee injury suffered by leading marksman De Lima threatens early hopes of success.
The 80-goal forward had a cartilage problem operated on last week and is a major doubt for August 30’s league opener against Dibba Al Fujairah.