A stellar season for UAE icon Omar Abdulrahman saw him earn the Emirati Player of the Year title for a second time as the stars of 2015/16 were recognised during Saturday night’s Arabian Gulf League Awards.
Abdulrahman, 24, went home from the event at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace with the headline prize once again, following his inaugural triumph in 2012/13.
The Al Ain playmaker’s division high 12 assists also secured him a berth in the Best XI, as he gained honours in two of the 11 categories which were otherwise dominated by champions Al Ahli and Al Wahda hot shot Sebastian Tagliabue.
After edging out 23-goal Al Jazira striker – and holder – Ali Mabkhout plus injured Red Knights
defensive midfielder Majed Hassan, ‘Amoory’ declared his love of the sport would mean he would not be weighed down by greater expectations in the future.
“I need to thank the team and the fans for this. This doesn’t put me under any pressure for next year, I simply play football for fun,” said Abdulrahman, after receiving his award from HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. “It was very hard this season, with the league only between two teams – Al Ahli and Al Ain. But next year it will be even harder than this year.”
Abdulrahman’s side were dethroned by Ahli, whose seventh top-flight crown came with a record 66-point tally. This historic success was represented at the end-of-season extravaganza.
Current UAE No1 Majed Nasser was given the Goalkeeper of the Year honour, after a steady campaign which featured only excellence between the sticks rather than further episodes of indiscretion. A total of five players – Brazil attacking midfielder Everton Ribeiro, South Korean centre-back Kwon Kyung-won, plus the UAE trio of Nasser, Khamis Esmail and Hassan – featured in the Best XI, while Cosmin Olaroiu collected a second Coach of the Year.
“It’s good that people appreciate my work,” said the Romanian supremo, whose future remains under a cloud. “It’s deserved more for my team, for my players, for my staff. It’s not only me, it’s the work of a team, coordinated by me.
“We try always to do our best to make the team win on a constant basis. We try to win the games, improve day-by-day, game-by-game, training-by-training and then we look for the competitions and then the awards.”
An incredible campaign for Wahda’s Tagliabue gained requisite recognition. The Argentine centre forward, 31, was a key influence behind his club’s run to third place and a play-off berth for the 2017 AFC Champions League. His 25 goals saw him become top scorer for the first time in the Emirates. This achievement helped him beat Ribeiro and 20-goal Al Wasl forward Fabio De Lima to Foreign Player of the Year, and lead the line in the Best XI.
“I am very happy,” said Tagliabue, who signed a two-year contract extension to 2018 in December. “It was three awards for me – top sco-rer, best foreigner and in the team of the year.
“I said before I am very surprised and very happy to win the Foreign Player of the Year. It will encourage me even more for next year. I have to do more and I have to fight more.
“I always promise the team and the fans I will never give less than 100 per cent. I hope next year will be even better than this year, personally and for the group.
“I thank my wife and my family. They are my life and the power of my life in football.
“This is for them. My wife is Mariana and my kids are Facundo and Gustavo – they are my three loves.”
The Clarets also saw a breakthrough season for UAE forward Mohamed Al Akbari, 20, culminate with the U21 Player of the Year selection. Syria forward Omar Khrbin’s nine goals in 12 matches since his January arrival at Al Dhafra made him the Fans’ Player of the Year, while Jazira’s wretched season counted for little as they were nevertheless named Professional Club of the Year.