With the domestic football season already under way, here’s your chance to get close to some of the silverware that some of the clubs will be hoping to lift come May.
The Arabian Gulf League, Arabian Gulf Cup, Arabian Gulf Super Cup and Under-21 League crowns will all be on display in the Trophy Tour.
Organised by the Pro League Committee, the tour has already proved popular with hundreds of fans of different clubs visiting Abu Dhabi’s Marina Mall last week for a chance to take pictures with the coveted crowns.
But if you missed it, there’s still more opportunities as the tour moves to Al Ain Mall from September 29 to October 1 before the final leg at Dubai Mall from October 6 to 8.
Besides getting close to the shields and cups, PLC will also be giving out souvenirs for all fans.
It’s part of their vision in promoting the various competitions and Suhail Al Areefi, CEO of PLC, said:
“We are organising this tour in order to actively engage with football fans right across the country and build the excitement and prestige of the trophies for which our clubs will be competing this season,” he said.
Among the holders of the various shields and cups on display are Al Ahli. Last season, the Dubai club were crowned champions of the UAE, winning their third AGL title after the Red Knights finished nine points clear ahead of rivals Al Ain in the league.
Although the season is just a few weeks old, Ahli are also proud owners of the Arabian Gulf Super Cup. Earlier this month, goals from Mohammed Fawzi (og) and Rodrigo Lima were enough to see off Al Jazira 2-1 in a historic clash that saw the tournament staged on foreign soil in Egypt for the first time.
Al Wahda players Sebastian Tagliabue and Ismail Matar will know exactly how it feels to win the Arabian Gulf Cup. Javier Aguirre’s men ended their four-year wait for silverware with a narrow 1-0 win over Al Shabab with former Arsenal midfielder Denilson netting the only goal of the game.
With the trophies set to be displayed in Al Ain and Dubai, Al Areefi said: ““We aim to attract as many fans as possible to support their teams from the stadium in their quest to capture these trophies, as we know that the fans are what makes football special, and an electric atmosphere of support within stadia can help motivate the teams to push their on-pitch performances to the next level, in turn raising the quality and further developing the standard of UAE football.”
What: Trophy Tour
Where: Al Ain Mall and Dubai Mall.
When: September 29 to October 1 (Al Ain) and October 6 to 8 (Dubai Mall)
Contact: For more information, www.agleague.ae
Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic has urged his side to grasp their dream of making the AFC Champions League final for the first time in more than a decade.
The opening skirmish of the Boss’ last-four contest against dangerous Qataris El Jaish takes place on Tuesday night at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. This fixture provides the 2003 winners with the chance to make a return to Asia’s grandest stage, with their last appearance ending in defeat to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad 11 years ago.
The challenge will not be an easy one, with the Soldiers inflicting a pair of defeats on them in Group B. But for Dalic, he was convinced superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and his team-mates have what it takes to secure another shot at “glory”.
“We are too close, very close to our dream,” the 49-year-old said. “But also too far from our dream.
“When we played in the group stages, we had a chance to fix our mistakes. But now, we have two matches for the final, for the glory.
“I’m convinced my team will play good games, especially because we played together for the last two weeks.”
Both sides come into the clash with 100-per-cent records in the nascent Arabian Gulf League and Qatar Stars League, winning both matches. The Boss have been buoyed by new Brazilian winger Caio’s quick adaption, plus striker Douglas returning to form with a hat-trick in Thursday’s 5-2 thrashing of Emirates Club.
They met twice within a week during early spring, with the Boss losing each match by a one-goal margin despite arguably being the stronger side.
Jaish – who were only founded in 2007 – would go on to be thumped 3-0 at home by Al Nasr in the first leg of the quarters, only for Brazil-born striker Wanderley’s “forged or falsified” Indonesian passport to see the AFC rule a forfeit which allowed them to eventually proceed 4-0 on aggregate.
The issue has been a contentious one and urbane coach Sabri Lamouchi, 44, railed against it being revisited during the pre-match press conference.
“My team deserves to be here,” said the ex-France and Internazionale midfielder. “So don’t ask me anything about this decision.
“We respect the rules and after you respect the rules, the pitch decides.”
Reaching this stage of the competition will bring up sore memories for the current Boss squad. They were outclassed by Al Hilal in the 2014 semis, the 4-2 aggregate scoreline not a realistic reflection of the Saudi giants’ dominance.
“That is a very bad memory, we don’t want to remember it now,” said battling UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem.
“We just want to learn from that lesson. Now we are very ready, the spirit is very high and the level physically is excellent.”
Al Nasr are targeting the recruitment of an Asian-qualified attacking midfielder as they look to regroup now they have decided not to formally appeal the rejection of Wanderley’s Indonesian passport.
The Blue Wave’s promising season descended into chaos after the documentation held by the Brazil-born striker was declared “forged or falsified”. The AFC provisionally banned the summer buy from Sharjah for 60 days on September 2 and later declared the triumphant first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Qatar’s El Jaish in which he scored twice on debut a forfeit, leading to their eventual elimination.
The Dubai-outfit had promised to contest the governing body’s ruling after the heated second leg on September 14, but declined to officially pursue it prior to the 10-day period to formally submit an appeal expiring last week.
Attention has now turned to recalibrating their four-man foreign quota, in which one spot has to be taken up by a player with certified links to this continent. A lengthy shortlist of targets has been drawn up, with an initial emphasis placed on exploring the Australian market.
This strategic decision will directly impact the future of either Burkina Faso winger Jonathan Pitroipa or ex-France Under-21 forward Jires Kembo Ekoko. One of the pair will make way to open up a position.
Ivan Jovanovic’s men are not expecting Wanderley to be subjected to further stringent punishments, meaning they want to reintroduce him to lead the line for 2016/17. The club have been operating with just three non-Emiratis since the bulldozing target man’s solitary – and precipitous – appearance during the 3-0 thrashing in Doha.
They also have every intention to continue with fellow recent recruit Abdelaziz Barrada. The Morocco playmaker – who was purchased from Marseille after a frustrating two-year spell following his sale by Al Jazira – particularly excelled during their opening Arabian Gulf League-victory at Al Dhafra.
Both Kembo Ekoko and Pitroipa are experiencing their second season at Al Maktoum Stadium.
Kembo Ekoko has 10 goals and five assists in the top flight since he was bought from Al Ain, while Pitroipa’s rescue from the sidelines at Jazira has seen seven strikes notched and six others set-up.