x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pro League goal glut hides clubs' failings

The excitement of the league has been marred a little by the news coming from the Pro League Committee about club licensing, with only five meeting the conditions laid down by the AFC.

Asamoah Gyan is top of the Pro League scoring chart. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper
Asamoah Gyan is top of the Pro League scoring chart. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper

Last season, Asamoah Gyan topped the goal scoring charts in the Pro League with 21. This term, he has already got seven from only three games. Emiliano Alfaro and Grafite are just one behind on six, while Rodrigo Vergilio has five.

Overall, 86 goals have been scored in 21 league matches so far, an average of more than four goals per game. In the last round of seven matches, that average was an incredible 5.57 with 39 goals scored.

In terms of goals, this is the second best start in the professional era of the league after the 2009/10 season, when 81 goals were scored in the first three weeks at an average of 4.5 per game.

In the first season of the Pro League, 2008/09, that tally and average stood at 64 and 3.55 respectively.

In 2010/11, 54 goals were scored in the first three weeks at an average of three per game, while last season, the corresponding numbers were 49 and 2.72.

Does this mean there has been a fall in the standards of goalkeeping since last season? Or a decline in the levels of defence?

Defence has generally not been a strong point of Pro League teams.

The addition of four Division One teams could be one the reasons. Al Shaab (six), Al Dhafra (nine), Dibba Al Fujairah (seven) and Kalba (12) have conceded 34 goals.

But then again, the likes of Gyan, Grafite and Vergilio are in their second season here, which means a better understanding of the conditions. Al Ahli's Luis Jimenez pointed that out last week.

"I could not run and breathe on the pitch [last season]," he said.

"It was the first time I was playing in such temperatures and high humidity. Now I am used to these conditions, am more in tune with my teammates and know the opponents a lot better."

If that is true, the season promises to be one of the best. The first three rounds have provided the right indicators.

But the excitement of the league has been marred a little by the news coming from the Pro League Committee (PLC) about club licensing.

Only five clubs - Al Shabab, Al Wahda, Al Ahli, Al Ain and Al Jazira - have met all the conditions laid down by the Asian Football Confederation and the PLC, and have been granted a licence.

This is a not a statistic we can be proud of. The four promoted clubs can be excused, but the others have known about the requirements since 2010.

The UAE Football Association and the PLC have conducted a number of workshops to educate the clubs about the required paperwork and yet so many of the applications were incomplete.

It is not a surprise though. Speaking purely from the media perspective, most clubs leave a lot to be desired.

According to the AFC criteria, every club is required to appoint a media officer, who has a "diploma in journalism" and "concluded a media officer education course" provided by the national association.

His duties include "organisation of simultaneous translation" at media conferences and "preparation of regular media releases".

Clubs like Al Ain and Jazira would perhaps score 10 out of 10 on that front, but unfortunately the same cannot be said about some of the others.

The Arabic media have regularly complained about the translation at post-match press conferences, but it is worse for the English-speaking journalists.

Most times, they get a few sentences all saying the same things.

With the PLC trying to do their best to reach out to expatriates, both Arabs and non-Arabs, it would certainly help to get a few more inches of news in the English-speaking press.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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