DUBAI // Al Ahli will use their latest setback as motivation to secure the Arabian Gulf League title, according to Catalin Raducan, their assistant coach.
On Monday, the league leaders said they expected their six-point advantage over second-place Al Shabab to be halved when the Football Association’s Disciplinary Committee met last night. The FA were set to make official the loss of the three points earned in Friday’s 3-1 victory over Al Dhafra.
Adnan Hussain was used as a substitute in that match, yet Ahli subsequently discovered he should not have been permitted to play given he had already accumulated three yellow cards.
The offence carries a one-match suspension, with Ahli citing an administrative “technical error” as reason for the oversight. The FA is expected to award Dhafra a 3-0 win.
For Ahli, it is simply another hitch in their championship aspirations, coming a month after Cosmin Olaroiu, their coach, was banned for six months from the touchline for allegedly breaking a contract with Al Ain, his former club. Olaroiu had already served a three-match suspension in November, having reportedly made derogatory remarks about Al Ain in a post-match media briefing.
That same month, Ahli contested a case regarding a dispute surrounding the purchase of former player Jackson Coelho that prompted Fifa, world football’s governing body, to get involved. In many different ways, it has been a manic season for the Dubai club.
“I don’t want to talk too much about this problem,” Raducan said. “It was a big mistake and we take our responsibility. The players are maybe a little frustrated, but they must understand it’s not their fault.
“It’s very important not to look at who’s guilty, at who made the mistake, but to look forward and show everybody Al Ahli is a strong group. From the beginning of the season this team has many problems: players injured, the Fifa case and what happened with the head coach.
“These things only make us stronger, more like a family. They give us more power to be in front at the end and to win this competition.”
Ahli also lost points off the field last season; they were perhaps a minute from a scoreless draw with Al Ain when a spectator on the home side of the stadium threw an object that struck the referee, and the match was halted. Al Ain were given a full three points and Ahli received none. Ahli also were forced to play their next two “home” matches at neutral sites.
On Wednesday, Ahli continue their quest for a first top-flight trophy in five years with a home encounter against Dubai club, a side mired at the other end of the table.
Olaroiu’s squad will be confident in obtaining a positive result – they have won 10 of 13 league matches thus far, losing once - to help recover from the obvious disappointment of the three-point deduction. Raducan is adamant recent events are sure to act as a catalyst to Ahli finally ending their title drought.
“We must think that it’s not easy,” the Romanian said. “When you want to be No 1 it’s not easy. Many things can happen on this road. It depends on us, but we must be strong.
“We must show on the pitch what we have until now. We need to continue like this and, for sure, we’ll win this league. We trust in our players; we know they are the best in the league.”