x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Optimism all 'round

Will the positivity engendered by the UAE's Olympic football team transfer to the new domestic season?

Another new football season means another fresh start, offering the inevitable and universal optimism of opening day. But the start of the UAE Pro League season today brings fans and players new hope not only for their teams but also for the success of the league and even the game in general.

After the relative success of the UAE's Olympic football team in London, there are high hopes that fans will flock to matches in greater numbers than ever before. The youngsters registered one point in three matches - on a draw with Senegal - but their performance and style of play drew praise from fans, players and coaches at the London Olympics. Indeed, for 20 glorious minutes, the UAE outplayed host nation Great Britain and looked set to cause one of the tournament's biggest upsets, until two late goals spoilt the hope. Still, the standout player in London, Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, should be a prime attraction.

The renewed interest in football these performances has engendered, coupled with the arrival of big-name signings such as Mohamed Zidan (from German club Mainz to Baniyas) and Abdel Razek Fadlallah (from Egypt's Zamalek to Al Wasl), offers a fighting chance to reverse the trend of falling crowds. The expansion of the league from 12 to 14 clubs should also improve its competitive nature and promote local talent.

Let the new games begin.