x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Al Jazira celebrate UAE Pro League title in some style

The occasion of their final game of a memorable season seemed a perfect time to stage what Jazira labelled the "Celebration of Champions".

Ricardo Oliveira, right, was on the score sheet against Dubai last night as Al Jazira ended their campaign on a high.
Ricardo Oliveira, right, was on the score sheet against Dubai last night as Al Jazira ended their campaign on a high.

Al Jazira's victory celebration could be described only as "over the top", but the club had mitigating circumstances. Thirty-seven years' worth, to be precise.

Jazira won the Pro League and the President's Cup this season, a distinguished double in any circumstances and a particularly unlikely one, in this case, given that the Abu Dhabi side had never won either since their founding in 1974.

So, the occasion of their final game of a memorable season seemed a perfect time to stage what Jazira labelled the "Celebration of Champions".

It began with bunting, balloons, Jazira flags, Jazira shirts, Jazira clappers, gigantic Jazira foam fingers, a marching band, special gold-lettered shirts for the team and a singer, moved on to the award of a Dh1 million Jazira-red Ferrari Italia 458 at half time.

It concluded with two more musical acts as well as a laser show splitting the simmering night sky as they were presented the championship plate.

They had been waiting a very long time. Have we mentioned that?

The now-complete Pro League season began with Fabio Cannavaro, David O'Leary and Al Ahli the talk of the league, and it ended with Diego Maradona and Al Wasl threatening to steal Jazira's celebratory thunder. Without success.

Jazira's superiority throughout and their spectacular party on the final night returned the focus where it belonged: to one of the best teams ever assembled in the UAE.

After three consecutive seasons of finishing second, Jazira tore up this Pro League season, clinching the title in the 18th round, with four still to play, scoring 64 goals, the best 22-game total in a decade; and not suffering a defeat until the second-last game of the season, when Al Ain were playing to avoid relegation and Jazira were playing because the schedule said they had to.

Their season began with Ibrahim Diaky ascendant and ended with the South American trio of Matias Delgado, Ricardo Oliveira and Bare nearly unstoppable. And with the Jazira goalkeeper Ali Kashief often unbeatable at the other end.

So ends three years of Abel Braga running Shiekh Mansour bin Zayed's team, and aside from that "major trophies" thing he solved so spectacularly this season, the Brazilian was a huge success, losing only four games in 66 matches over three league seasons.

Jazira's season was also memorable in that they drew the biggest and most diverse crowds in UAE history. Thousands of women were at the game last night, as well as thousands more expatriates. It was something never before seen in the country.

Jean-Paul Manjan, a science teacher from Cameroon, won the Ferrari in a shoot-out against a Briton, who hit the post with his third penalty, an outcome England fans probably could have predicted. He slumped to the turf in anguish.

"This," shouted the man on the microphone, "is how we do it at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium!"

At long last.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

Keep an equal playing field, a18