x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Al Wahda coach Branko Ivankovic unhappy at Pro League fixtures reshuffle

The Abu Dhabi side's coach says fixtures should have been pushed back as officials postpone matches following the UAE's success in the Gulf Cup.

Branko Ivankovic's Al Wahda has had to rethink strategies after the change in schedule. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Branko Ivankovic's Al Wahda has had to rethink strategies after the change in schedule. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

ABU DHABI // Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach, has called for common sense to prevail on rescheduling the start of the second half of the Pro League.

The Pro League competition committee on Saturday postponed Round 14 matches, which were to be played today and tomorrow, after the UAE's success in the Gulf Cup.

The next fixtures are now Round 15 games which will be played on Saturday and Sunday, with the cancelled programme being rescheduled for a later date.

"I can understand the decision to postpone the Round 14 games but they should be pushing back the schedule rather than playing the next set of games," Ivankovic said.

"We have been preparing for the Al Wasl game at home and now we have to play Al Shabab away. Ideally they should have pushed the schedule back and play all the games as per the original order.

"For me, postponing the start of the second half of the league is not a problem. I can understand that because the players, the country is still celebrating the Gulf Cup win."

Wahda had three players - Ismail Matar, Saeed Al Kathiri and Hamdan Al Kamali - in the victorious Gulf Cup squad.

Ali Al Nuaimi, a spokesman for Al Jazira, said they were relieved at the decision to postpone the start of the second half of the season.

He said rescheduled the start would provide the players enough time to recover and return to the club games.

"For us, the rescheduling of the matches works well, because we have six key players in the national team," Al Nuaimi said.

"We certainly would miss them for the start of the second round if they had gone ahead with the schedule. We would have been worst affected with half the regular line-up absent.

"The new schedule would give the players enough time to return from the celebrations and prepare for their club matches."

Jazira were to play Al Nasr away tomorrow and now they will be playing Al Ahli at home on Saturday.

Ali Mabkhout, Abdulla Mousa, Khamis Ismail, Ali Al Ameri, Ali Kasheif and Khalid Issa were the Jazira players on national duty.

Al Nuaimi's sentiments were shared by Abdulsalam Jumaa, the captain of Al Dhafra.

"I understand the competition committee has a very tight schedule in completing the matches but winning the regional championship doesn't happen too often," he said.

"So we need to give those heroes time to celebrate and soak in the celebrations. The opportunity to meet the country's President and the Rulers are rare opportunities."

The members of the UAE side were received by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE, on Saturday and by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, yesterday.

Jumaa added: "It is never easy rescheduling an already tight schedule and it may have affected a few teams in their preparations but only just. I think they can adjust.

"In our case, we don't have any players in the national team. However, we also don't have any issues playing our games a few days later or against a different opponent.

"And for a team like us, every game is a big game."

Dhafra were to meet Ajman away and will now play Dibba Al Fujairah at home on Sunday.

"It only a mental thing that we play at home instead of starting with an away game," Jumaa said. "I think all teams will have enough time to mentally prepare themselves for the change. At the end, you need to play against every team despite this minor change on the dates."

The national team players are expected to join their respective clubs for the league games on Saturday and Sunday before returning to national duty for their opening Asian Cup qualifier against Vietnam away on February 6.

The UAE are drawn in a group that also include Uzbekistan and Hong Kong, with the top two qualifying for the championship in Australia from January 8 to 13, 2015.



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