An excitable and sizable crowd streamed into Zabeel Stadium to see the Bur Dubai honours contested between Al Wasl and Al Nasr on Friday night. The yellow contingent left the packed arena elated, a brace from man-of-the-moment Fabio de Lima salvaging a 2-2 draw during a contest that burst into life at the death.
The 21-year-old Brazilian looked to have had his thunder stolen by Ibrahima Toure after opening the scoring three minutes into the second half. The Senegal international stood up to strike a late double that put the boisterous Blue Wave travelling support – all too briefly – into rapture.
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A week on from being the inspiration behind the 4-0 thumping of Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli, Fabio was the man in the right place in injury time to nod in a leveller from close range to save the day for the hosts.
An unseasonably warm evening did not prove conducive to producing flowing football, a day-long sandstorm cloaking the city and trapping in the draining desert heat. Watching former Chelsea defender Dan Pestrscu – linked previously to AGL coaching jobs – would not have been roused until the breathless final moments.
Both will need to find an extra gear if they are to threaten a late run into the AFC Champions League qualification spots.
It took until the 40th-minue of a tense first half featuring deep defensive lines and few willing runners for a clear chance to emerge. Squat Cheetahs forward Ederson Alves was the man in question, inches too small to head in his 10th goal of the campaign.
He turned provider three minutes after the interval, his low cross slid home by countryman Fabio.
Nasr only came alive after the 70th-minute mark. Delightful Spain winger Pablo Hernandez used smart feet to create space, only for his low effort to disappoint.
His class, however, was all over Toure’s 77th-minute breakthrough. A deft header played the Senegal striker in, characteristic composure seeing him slot home a ninth top-flight strike of the campaign.
A 10th followed soon after, the 29-year-old racing clear down the right to slot through goalkeeper Yousif Abdulla’s legs.
The gloating Nasr support was soon quietened. A deep cross picked out Ederson, heading back for compatriot Fabio to bundle home.
The Pro League Committee is welcoming applications from young and motivated Emiratis, who wish to utilise their organisational skills and pursue their passion for football by becoming PLC Match Officials for the 2015/16 season.
With the online application window opening on Thursday 19thFebruary 2015, candidates are encouraged to submit an application form and CV via the official AGLeague website to register their desire to become a Match Commissioner, Access Control Officer or Media Officer with the PLC.
Tasked with the organisation and operation of Arabian Gulf League, Arabian Gulf Cup, Arabian Gulf Super Cup and U21 League matches, the PLC encourages applicants who fit the bill to join the UAE football family and bring their skills and dedication to all Pro League Committee competitions.
Speaking about the initiative to encourage new volunteers to join the PLC Match Officials team, CEO Suhail Al Areefi said: "We are aiming to involve as many young Emiratis in the organisation of PLC matches, and we will provide workshops and training in order to prepare them for the responsibilities of the roles, before assessing their capabilities and determining their readiness to assume PLC Match Official duties".
Link to submit the application here.
Leading official Mohammed Hazzam is confident the UAE can “raise the bar” if they win the right to host the 2019 Asian Cup.
The AFC are set to announce the location of the next tournament on March 9, with the UAE up against a rival bid from Iran.
Inspectors visited the Emirates earlier in February and were impressed by the country’s ever-improving portfolio of stadia.
Australia received widespread praise for their hosting of the recently-concluded 2015 Cup but Hazzam, the acting Secretary General of the Football Association, believes the UAE are even capable of topping their efforts.
“We congratulate Australia on hosting the recent Asian Cup, they did a good job and everything was fine – but I think we will do a good job here in the UAE,” he said.
The UAE last held the tournament in 1996 with the host nation beaten on penalties by Saudi Arabia in the final at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City.
That tournament comprised 12 nations and just two other venues – Al Ain’s Tahnoun Bin Mohamed Stadium and Al Nasr’s Al-Maktoum Stadium – were used to host matches. Since then the tournament has grown to 16 teams, while in 2019 there will be 24 teams competing for glory.
Should the UAE be successful in claiming hosting rights a total of six stadiums will be used: The Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa International Stadi um and Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, Dubai International Cricket Stadium, and a new 60,000-seater stadium at Dubai Sports City to be completed by 2018.
“In 1996 we hosted the event and we did a good job,” added Hazzam. “Today we want to host again and we are willing to raise the bar to have an even better competition in 2019.”
Mahdi Ali’s UAE side were superb in their run to the 2015 semi-finals Down Under, but the coach’s contract is set to expire this summer.
Hazzam said good progress is being made on an extension which will see Ali lead the Whites’ bid for 2018 World Cup qualification.
Hazzam added: “Mahdi Ali is a good coach. We’ve ascended to number 66 in the FIFA rankings, so I think he is a good candidate to continue with the UAE and I hope he will be the man to lead us to our first World Cup in 28 years.
"We have sat down with the coach and everything is going smoothly. We hope it will be signed soon.”
Hazzam yesterday attended the signing of a deal between the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and the UAE Women’s Football Committee.
IPIC will sponsor the UAE team and will also soon launch the ‘IPIC Women’s Football League’.