x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New Year's wishlist: UAE win will be boost for game

I dearly wish that at least one of the UAE clubs can reach the knockout rounds in the new edition of the AFC Champions League.

Dear diary, the year is coming to a close and people around the globe are busy confining the good, the bad and the ugly of the past 12 months to the bins of history and are looking ahead. I have decided to follow the trend.

Where do I start? At the start, of course. The UAE are leaving for the Asian Cup in Qatar on January 7. The group is tough, with Iraq, Iran and North Korea challenging the Whites for the two quarter-final places from the group. But I sincerely hope that the UAE can go far in the tournament. Just one Gulf Cup title is not enough of a reward for the efforts that officials put into the game here.

We saw a fairy tale in 2007 (Iraq's championship), so why not another? A UAE win will be a massive boost for the game here and, most importantly, it might help bring a few more fans to the stadiums, weaning they away from the malls, four-wheelers and shisha joints. Playing in front of empty stands, I am sure, is demoralising for the players and not a great advertisement for the game here.

In March, the new edition of the AFC Champions League begins and I dearly wish that at least one of the UAE clubs can reach the knockout rounds. In the past two years, Pro League clubs have played 46 matches in the group stages of the tournament and they have won just seven of those games and lost 28. I am desperately looking for some success.

Moving to the two UAE-connected clubs in England, it would be great to see Roberto Mancini discover ways of dealing with Carlos Tevez at Manchester City. A greater desire, though, is to see Arsene Wenger finally find a goalkeeper who plays true to his job description. Lukasz Fabianski and Manuel Almunia? No comments! Want to keep this clean.

Staying on in England, would it not be nice to see John Terry and Wayne Bridge shake hands and usher in the New Year together? But what are the chances of that happening?

Or of Wayne Rooney keeping his temper and libido in check, and adding a few more to the lone goal he has scored this season? Can Rob Green stop watching replays of that goal against the United States and perhaps save West Ham's season?

A more realistic wish would be to see Andy Murray win Wimbledon or any other grand slam. TheBritish tennis fans have waited long enough: Fred Perry was the last male to win at the All-England Club, in 1936, and Virginia Wade was the last female, in 1977. Perhaps they can avenge their Davis Cup loss to Lithuania, as well.

Coming back to this country, I hope Sebastian Vettel will still be battling with Fernando Alonso for the World Championship when the Formula One circus arrives at the Yas Marina Circuit for the penultimate round of the year in November. That would mean Vettel has not had even more tangles with his teammate, Mark Webber, and that Ferrari have hired a few sharper brains to manage their pit-stop strategy.

A word of advice for McLaren, if they read this: keep a few dummy steering wheels for Lewis Hamilton. You really do not want him hurling the US$50,000 (Dh183,655) originals.

Staying on the track, I just cannot understand why Dale Earnhardt Jr is having such a sorry time in the Nascar circuit. One win in 108 starts with Hendricks, having the same resources that gave Jimmie Johnson five consecutive championships, is just not good enough. So wishing him a better 2011; the Americans want a livelier champion.

For my home country, I really hope MS Dhoni can lead his side to victory in the World Cup at home. I will be looking forward to the IPL again, without Modi, MRF and MaxMobile disturbing the viewing pleasure. Another no-no is an India-Sri Lanka contest, in any format or any competition. Six Test matches, 15 one-day internationals and three Twenty20s in the last 13 months … I cannot take any more of it.

Elsewhere, I hope rumours (did anybody else hear about it?) of England forming a rival to Fifa come true. They will surely have the support of the lone non-English vote they got during the World Cup bids. If it is true, the likes of Algeria will surely miss them, as will hordes of bemused fans for all the pre-tournament noises that England always make. Louder than the vuvuzelas!

My dearest wish, though, is to see Tiger Woods return to doing what he does best. No, I am talking about golf here. A vow of celibacy would be nice. If not, he can certainly whack all his mobile phones with his heaviest iron.