For the spectators speckled across the stands at Al Wasl Club on Tuesday, it quickly became apparent the days of watching Ryan Giggs ‘tearing apart’ teams are long gone.
The flying Welsh wonder at Manchester United has transformed into a Franz Beckenbauer-lite for his dotage. Searching passes from deep, rather than searing runs from the left wing that earned his iconic chant, are the order of the day now the Premier Futsal finals have got under way in Dubai.
Time catches up to all men. Even those equipped with the unique electric ability and ceaseless desire to succeed which saw the one-club man him sweep up a historic 35 major trophies from 1990-2014 – the second-highest tally in the history of football after Brazilian left-back Maxwell’s usurpation last summer.
His athleticism has declined, though decades worth of experience at the top level saw the impact substitute orchestrate a 10-7 victory for his Mumbai Warriors against prolific ex-Argentina and Internazionale striker Hernan Crespo’s Chennai Singhams on opening night.
Metronomic former team-mate Paul Scholes, Brazil magician Ronaldinho, gifted Portugal playmaker Deco and dogged Spain scrapper Michel Salgado all have embraced this futsal tournament in retirement. Yet a struggle to master the small pitch, smaller ball and reduced players even impacts such luminaries of the 11-a-side game.
A day full of goals & excitement at the Premier Futsal League, join us tomorrow with new teams & football legends at Al Wasl Club from 6pm pic.twitter.com/fs4SXoqBlg
— مجلس دبي الرياضي (@DubaiSC) September 26, 2017
“I played futsal for the first time last season and for a football player it was difficult, especially when you are playing against professional futsal players,” commented Giggs.
“In lots of ways, it is the same as football. There’s a ball, you have to score goals and score more than the opposite team.
“But tactically and technically it is much different. It is like basketball some times.
“This year has been successful also [the previous rounds were played in India], with the added bonus of coming to Dubai.
“I personally have a good relationship with Dubai. I have come here 25 or 30 times on holiday or business – I love the place.
“It is a great competition, which is getting stronger and stronger. It is something I enjoy playing.”
— Premier Futsal (@PremierFutsalHQ) September 25, 2017
The creaking wooden boards of Wasl’s basketball court are usually tread on by the local league’s players, mere sideshow on Dubai’s sporting map.
An entirely different scale of athlete are somewhat-incongruously competing on them until Sunday’s showpiece. Giggs and Scholes ran out in front of more than 75,000 spectators at Old Trafford throughout their decorated careers, with their lionised fellow captains in Premier Futsal being household names for hundreds of millions across the globe.
In this reduced arena, the Welshman settled for teeing up his uncelebrated colleagues against Crespo’s challengers. The highlight of his limited attacking forays was an under-hit lob that gently bounced into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Giggs should hope this was the warm-up for what is to come. A serial winner, barely without compare, will surely not pass up an opportunity to add another trophy in the coming days.
— Matt Monaghan (@mattmonaghan360) September 26, 2017
Manchester United icon Ryan Giggs has backed battling Gareth Barry to keep on going for another “two-three years” after he beat his Premier League appearance record this week.
Barry, 36, ran out for a historic 633rd time during West Bromwich Albion’s 2-0 loss at Arsenal on Monday night. This saw the 53-times-capped England defensive midfielder surpass the previous figure, although his celebrated former opponent featured in 672 top-flight matches for the Red Devils from 1990-2014 when you include games played in the old Football League’s First Division.
Speaking in Dubai’s Al Wasl Club on the sidelines of the ongoing Premier Futsal finals, Giggs congratulated the new benchmark setter.
“It’s a great achievement to play in the Premier League so long,” said the retired 43-year-old Wales winger, who is the second-most-decorated player in football history with 35 trophies.
“I did it that long, it’s difficult especially when it comes to the later years as you need to manage yourself and he’s done that right – he’s playing top level as well, still.
“I think he can go on another two-three years, as well. He looks a good professional.
“I don’t know him that well. But when you look after yourself, especially in the later years, and have the right manager to look after you, then you can play two-three more years.
“He’s 36, so he’s got another few seasons at least.”
Barry debuted as a 17-year-old for Aston Villa in a 3-1 win at Sheffield on Wednesday May 2, 1998. He went on to further feature for Manchester City and Everton, winning the 2010/11 FA Cup and 2011/12 Premier League with the former.
He joined West Brom for an undisclosed fee in August.
“My earliest memories of him are as a left-back, sometimes centre-back at Aston Villa as they played three at the back at that time,” commented Giggs, who skippered Mumbai Warriors to a 10-7 victory against lethal ex-Argentina and Internazionale striker Hernan Crespo’s Chennai Singhams on Tuesday night. “He then moved into a midfield role for England and his club.
“He was just always a solid performer, probably a manager’s dream because you know what you’re going to get week in and week out.
“He’s somebody you can trust that you are going to get performances from.
“When you get a player like that, they are always going to be in the reckoning when it comes to picking your team.”
The Premier Futsal finals are taking place in Dubai until Sunday, October 1. Deco, Ronaldinho, Paul Scholes and Michel Salgado will also feature.
Day tickets are priced from Dh50-500, with packages available from Dh150-1,650.
In this column, we track the best Arab football talents plying their trade in the Premier League and round-up their accomplishments every week.
Liverpool star Mohamed Salah is never far from the headlines after a series of glittering displays for the Reds, and he features this week in Jurgen Klopp’s 3-2 win at Leicester.
Meanwhile, Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny impressed as well and Abdelhamid Sabiri also flickered in class during Huddersfield’s 0-0 draw at Burnley.
Here’s a look at how these Arab footballers fared this weekend.
Another virtuous display from the Egyptian.
He opened the scoring after 15 minutes when slipping in behind Ben Chilwell to meet a well timed cross by Philippe Coutinho and send a powerful header into the net from a tight angle.
Still settling into life at Anfield but crucial at scoring goals, with four strikes in five Premier League appearances.
Minutes – 90
Goals – 1
Shots – 4
Shots on target – 1
Assists – 0
Key Passes – 1
Passing Accuracy – 61.1%
Touches – 50
Passes – 36
Dribbles – 0
Although he was a surprise name in the starting line up against West Brom, the Egyptian produced another industrious performance, always providing an option for the midfield.
He generally made the right decisions throughout the game with his neat passing, especially in the second half when West Brom started to increase the pressure at 0-2 down.
He may never be a star attraction at the Emirates Stadium but his ability to keep it simple and sharp remains a solid outlet for Arsene Wenger’s side.
His pairing with Granit Xhaka looks promising.
Minutes – 90
Shots – 1
Shots on target – 0
Assists – 0
Key Passes – 2
Passing Accuracy – 93.5%
Touches – 86
Passes – 77
Dribbles – 0
The Moroccan blazed a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the area early in the first half, but besides from that, he failed to get into the game before being substituted after 62 minutes.
Although he showed a willingness to go for the ball, he was booked for a poor challenge on Burnley’s Matthew Lowton after just six minutes.
The 20-year-old has shown flashes of class in his first two Premier League appearances, offering David Wagner another potent attacking option alongside Thomas Ince and Elias Kachunga.
Minutes – 62
Shots – 2
Shots on target – 0
Assists – 0
Key Passes – 0
Passing Accuracy – 70.8%
Touches – 36
Passes – 24
Dribbles – 1