x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Al Ahli express disgust at fan who threw object at linesman

Police still searching for culprit who threw object during match against Al Ain.

Referee’s assistant Mohammed Al Mehairi, left, is led from the field by referee Hamad Al Sheikh Hashmi on Saturday night.
Referee’s assistant Mohammed Al Mehairi, left, is led from the field by referee Hamad Al Sheikh Hashmi on Saturday night.

DUBAI // Al Ahli have condemned the supporter whose actions forced the cancellation of Saturday night's Pro League match against Al Ain.

With the encounter at 0-0 in injury time, the referee's assistant, Mohammed Al Mehairi, elected not to award a penalty to the home side after contact in the box, sparking outrage in the stands.

Al Mehairi was then struck on the head by an object the police believe was a mobile phone battery, hurled from a section of the stands reserved for Ahli fans. The official needed extensive treatment to staunch a bloody wound.

The referee, Hamad Al Sheikh Hashmi, called an end to the game before the allotted extra time, three minutes, had elapsed, and the Football Association's Disciplinary Committee are now preparing to study Al Sheikh Hashmi's official report before deciding what further action to take. They will meet at 5pm on Monday.

There has been speculation that Al Ain will be awarded a 3-0 victory as a result of the opposing fan's transgression. Ahmed Khalifa, the Ahli chief executive, said the club are appalled by the incident, and that the police are still trying to identity the culprit.

"This is completely against the laws and the spirit of the game, and something we never expected to happen in a match here," he said. "There was nothing to suggest it would end in such a tragic way.

"Of course, there are sometimes comments regarding the officials' performance, but to harm them physically and actually draw blood on the pitch opposes any sportsmanship and the notion of fair play.

"The club and UAE community does not accept such behaviour."

Khalifa said the club were waiting for an official letter from the Pro League Committee (PLC) to discover what action will be taken, and said substantial measures are in place to guarantee the safety of fans, players and officials.

"The match-day organisation is between many different parties: the club, the police, the PLC security, private security companies and the ambulance service," he said. "Everybody has their role and the club is always trying to help other bring the operation to the best it can be done.

"I am shocked how an individual can bring such an object into the stadium. I wish this does not happen ever again and that we never see blood of the pitch."

Khalifa did not rule out the possibility of a lifetime ban against the offending fan, a common practice in other leagues around the world.

"Again we have to follow the rules," he said. "I know in England they have regulations, but we're not sure who takes the role. It is the club, the PLC, the police or who?"

Khalifa's comments echo those shared last night on Twitter by Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah, the Ahli board chairman, who wrote: "This is the work of an individual and does not represent the great fans of Al Ahli. Football is about good sportsmanship, respecting your opponent and the officials.

"The person responsible will be dealt with by the security services and we will be patient and await the decision of the Disciplinary Committee and accept their decision, whatever it may be."

Another board member, Mansoor Lootah, said on the social networking site: "Unfortunate events in game against Al Ain yesterday. A big mistake, it is inexcusable and someone should be held accountable for it. Never accept such a thing in our stadiums."

Lootah added the club wish for the rapid recovery of Al Mehairi and called for the FA and Disciplinary Committee to ensure a repeat of "this sad and shameless business" is avoided.

Meanwhile, Luis Jimenez, the Ahli playmaker, suggested that, while the incident had no place in football, Al Sheikh Hashmi's officiating had contributed to the heightened tension in the stands.

"I think this referee is not possible for this type of game," he said. "I don't know him, but he doesn't have the experience for a game of this size, an important match between the league's top two teams.

"You need a good referee and what happened with the [referee's assistant] happened because the fans were very angry and nervous during the game. Every 50-50 foul went for Al Ain. That was the level of the referee."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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