A new professional era for UAE football got off to a sensational start this weekend with a glut of goals, captivating action and large crowds. The UAE's first ever professional league, or Pro League as it has been called, kicked off on Friday night with four matches which produced 15 goals. Setting the standard for the new competition were Al Ain, one of the biggest spenders in the off season, who defeated Al Sharjah 4-0.
The 12-team Pro League has been formed to improve playing standards and ensure clubs are run on the same professional lines as European clubs. It is also hoped a new approach will benefit the UAE national team, who are struggling in their World Cup qualifying group having lost two consecutive matches. The highlight of Friday night's first round of the Pro League was a stunning debut goal by Al Ain's Chilean midfielder, Goergy Valdivia, signed from the Brazilian club Palmerias for ?17 million (Dh90.3m).
In the other opening Friday night matches, Al Nasr were beaten 4-2 at home by Al Ahli. Al Khaleej lost 3-1 at home to Al Dhafra and Ajman lost 1-0 at home to Al Wasl. UAE football fans responded to the hype surrounding the Pro League as large crowds attended games. The action continued late last night with the highly anticipated Abu Dhabi derby between Al Jazira, the highest spenders on the transfer market, and Al Wadha.
The highlight of the match in Al Wadha, which was played at Al Nahyan stadium three quarters full to capacity, was the debut of Al Jazira's record Dh65m signing, Rafael Sobis, the Brazilian international who moved from the Spanish league side Real Betis. Last season's champion Al Shabab got their Pro League campaign under way late last night against Al Shaab. email@example.com Full story, page s7