x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fans eagerly await a feast of football

Two crucial football matches tonight will decide the Pro League champion - and which team will play in the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // Two crucial football matches tonight will decide the Pro League champion - and which team will play against the best in the world in the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi this December. Al Ahli sit one point above their rivals Al Jazira in the table and can clinch the inaugural Pro League title if they win at Al Shabab tonight. Meanwhile, Al Jazira will play in Ajman. Thousands of fans will watch the matches at home or at the stadia, with many anticipating a tense finish to the season.

The incentives for victory are stronger than ever tonight, since the Pro League champion will progress to the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi in December. The competition will feature the cup champions from different continents - including the winner of the Barcelona versus Manchester United ChampionsLeague final on Wednesday. Hamed al Qubaisi, 32, a mechanical engineer, will be at the Ajman Stadium tonight with his six-year-old son Hilal to watch the match between Al Jazira and Ajman.

"I am rooting for Al Jazira to win of course," he said. "Al Ahli are only above Al Jazira by one point. Hopefully Al Jazira will play well enough to make it to the Club World Cup and give Al Ahli the disappointment of a lifetime." Hilal was a bit confused as to which club he was a fan of and at first said Al Ahli, but when asked by his father if he was sure, he said: "Al Jazira," then added: "I don't really know, I just want to go to the stadium."

Mohammed Abdullah, 20, an immigration officer and his friend, Yahya Mohammed, 20, a customs officer, will both be watching the Al Ahli match, hoping that the team beats Al Shabab tonight. "Al Ahli is going to win for sure, Inshallah," Mr Mohammed said. "I am rooting for them on Sunday night, but when it comes time for the Fifa Club World Cup, my heart will be with Barcelona then." An Al Ain Football Club supporter will be rooting for Al Ahli tonight, disappointed that his favourite team finished third this season.

"My heart is with Al Ain," Mohammed al Shamsi, 47, a businessman, said. "I would have like to have seen them go to the Club World Cup but since that's not going to happen, I will root for Al Ahli over Al Jazira." Mr al Shamsi, who thinks Al Ahli will win, will also be monitoring the match between Al Ain and Al Shabab tonight but is more excited about the outcome of the matches in which Al Ahli and Al Jazira are involved tonight.

"Tomorrow is going to be football, football and more football," Mr al Shamsi said yesterday. "I will be moving a second television into the living room to not miss anything." Tonight's matches begin at 7.50pm with the Al Ahli versus Al Shabab match being televised on the Abu Dhabi Sports 1 and Dubai Sports 1 channels. The Al Jazira versus Ajman match will be televised at the same time on the Abu Dhabi Sports 2 and Dubai Sports 2 channels.

ealghalib@thenational.ae