Changing the venue for Emirates’ match against Dubai 48 hours before the game and the delay in announcing Adnan Hussain’s suspension are poor advertisements for the league’s professionalism.
We had been warned this could be one of the tightest seasons in UAE football history. The results over the past two weeks in the Arabian Gulf League have done nothing to dismiss that notion.
It started with two promoted teams – Sharjah and Emirates – notching upset wins at Al Wasl and Al Dhafra in the first two games. In the next round, Wasl, who had failed to produce a goal against Sharjah, scored three at Al Jazira to stun the hosts. Emirates lost by the same 3-2 score to Dubai.
Al Ain, the two-time defending champions, started their defence with a stunning 3-1 loss at Al Shabab, a club who were supposed to struggle after selling two of their most prized players, Ciel and Walid Abbas, to rivals Al Ahli.
Baniyas scored four in a seven-goal thriller at Ajman, but failed to find the net at home against Al Dhafra.
Some confusing results, are they not? And, unfortunately, a similar confusion prevails among the league’s officialdom.
Take the case of Emirates. With their home stadium in Ras Al Khaimah being prepared for the Fifa Under 17 World Cup, Eid Baroot’s team have been forced to play their home matches at other venues.
They were supposed to meet Dubai at Al Nasr’s Al Maktoum Stadium last Friday. That is what the Pro League Committee (PLC) announced, anyway.
Emirates booked hotels in Dubai, but 48 hours before the game, when they inquired about training facilities from Al Nasr officials, they were told they could not play at the Al Maktoum Stadium and that Nasr would convey their decision to the PLC.
The match was moved to Al Shaab, instead, and 24 hours before the game, there was a scamper for fresh hotel bookings.
Unable to find rooms in Sharjah, the team stayed in Ajman. Baroot, understandably, was seething at his post-match new conference after the Dubai game.
He said: “Is the Al Nasr stadium furnished with gold, and that is why we cannot play there? When teams from abroad come here, clubs are falling over each other to welcome them, but when a team from the UAE needs their cooperation, we are treated like this and we hear a lot of excuses.”
The change, according to Baroot, disrupted Emirates’ preparations for the game and he blamed the PLC for not asserting themselves.
“Some clubs clearly wield more power than the PLC and Nasr’s refusal is proof of that,” he said. “We are living in the age of professionalism and we should be treated professionally. Professionalism is not just a slogan.
“Less than 24 hours before the game, we did not know where we were going to play. This is really poor organisation, not professionalism. You wouldn’t find such things happening in the amateur era.”
Another instance of confusion came in the match between Al Ahli and Al Wahda. Playing for the Ahli reserve team against Dubai on September 15, Adnan Hussain received a red card.
His case was taken up by the Football Association’s Disciplinary Committee last Thursday and they decided to hand him a four-match ban.
On Friday Hussain came on as a substitute in Ahli’s 2-1 win over Wahda.
Why? Because the Disciplinary Committee had finished their meeting on Thursday after the “official working hours” of the clubs and the FA, so the decision could not be formally announced till Sunday.
According to the FA officials, this is their usual practice.
Wahda officials, like Baroot, are dumbfounded by the explanations coming through from the mandarins.
In this age of professionalism with myriad means of communication available, such practises seem a bit primitive.