x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Ahli's fall from grace proves nothing is certain

In the roller-coaster world of football fortunes, nothing remains permanent. The Pro League champions, Al Ahli, are realising the success of one season does not necessarily guarantee more in the following season.

In the roller-coaster world of football fortunes, nothing remains permanent. The Pro League champions, Al Ahli, are realising the success of one season does not necessarily guarantee more in the following season. Plagued by injuries, they lost the Super Cup to Al Ain in the season-opener between the league champions and the President's Cup winners. Ahli managed just four points from their first five league games and their Romanian coach, Ioan Andone, was promptly shown the door. The team's fortunes have not changed much under the Emirati Mahdi Ali, who took charge in early November.

Ahli are on 11 points and eighth in the league table and they failed to go beyond the first round of the Club World Cub in Abu Dhabi. Andone is one of the five coaches fired so far this season. Al Shabab (ninth on 10 points) sacked Toninho Cerezo and replaced him with Abdul Wahab Abdul Qadir. Ze Mario was booted out by Ajman, who are still looking for their first points. The biggest shock, however, was the demise of the German Winfried Schaefer, who was fired from Al Ain when his team were still third in the league.

The game's first professional season saw 12 coaches sacked. Schaefer and Cerezo, who survived that season, have lost their jobs since, leaving the Al Jazira coach Abel Braga as the only survivor in the Pro League. Jazira will start with a healthy four-point lead in the New Year, dreaming of their first league title and, with it, a berth as the host nation's representative at the Club World Cup in December 2010.

Fans are hoping a team from the Club World Cup host city will win the league, and that looks a good probability with Jazira, Al Wahda, Ain and Baniyas occupying the top-four slots close to the half-way mark. The Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, one of the two venues of the Fifa showpiece event, is the home ground of Jazira. Jazira are the only team to remain unbeaten in all competitions and they have maintained their four-point lead over neighbours Wahda.

Jazira have come close to winning the league in the last two seasons, and may be third time lucky. They were runners-up to Al Shabab and Al Ahli, and prior to that, were third three times. And they seem on course for the coveted title and a ticket to the Club World Cup. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae