x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Abdulaziz wants glory days again

Few clubs in the UAE can match the glory days that Al Sharjah have had.

The departure of Quasai Munir, centre, has left a hole in midfield.
The departure of Quasai Munir, centre, has left a hole in midfield.

Few clubs in the UAE can match the glory days that Al Sharjah have had. In the history of UAE league football, their name figures right on the top as winners of the first edition in 1973-74. They repeated that success four more times and have finished second in the league on 11 occasions. They have reached eight President's Cup finals and won each time - a record that earned them the sobriquet of "The Kings".

Sharjah were indeed the kings of domestic football during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and their golden era brought glory for the UAE as the country qualified for the 1990 World Cup. There were nine superstars from Sharjah in the UAE team at the Italia. The club and the national team's fates seem to be entwined. The UAE has since failed to repeat the feat and Sharjah have suffered similar sorrow. Their last league title came in 1995-96 and they have won the President's Cup just twice in the last 13 seasons.

Abdulaziz Mohammed used to be a Sharjah icon during their halcyon days. He is the manager of the side in present times, and he confidently states the tide is about to turn for the "Royals". "Inshallah, this will be our season," he says. "We have prepared ourselves well and we have brought in good players. "We had a good camp in Switzerland. The coach worked hard with the players and they looked really good at the camp.

"I hope we can continue to improve and show the fans that we are still a top club." Sharjah have retained the services of their Brazilian striker Anderson, who has topped the Division One scoring charts for the last five seasons. They have brought in another Brazilian to bolster the side, the defensive midfielder Roberto Lopes and a Vasco player who spent last season on loan at Boavista. Ghanaian striker Abdul Nafiu Idrissu has also joined the side from Al Dhafra.

"Anderson has been the league's top-scorer for five years now and I am sure he will repeat that success again in the new season," says Abdulaziz. "He is a great striker, technically good and always in the right position. "Lopes will be a key player for us in the midfield. He is a very good at keeping possession and spreading the ball. He will be the enforcer in the middle." The Iraqi international Qusay Munir used to be the enforcer for Sharjah in the midfield, but he moved away to Qatar Sports Club during the off-season. The influential and crafty Iranian Masoud Shojaei has also left Sharjah for the Spanish side Osasuna, where he is creating ways with his outstanding dribbling skills. The departure of these two will surely leave a hole in the Sharjah midfield, but Abdulaziz is confident they will be able to plug the gaps.

"Both these players were very good, but now they are gone and we have to play without them," he says. "We have lost some very good players in the past too, and we have managed without them. "We have absolute confidence in the players that we have and I am sure they will make it a great season for Al Sharjah. "This is the first edition of the Pro League. We won the first edition of the amateur league and we want to do the same in the Pro league."

arizvi@thenational.ae