x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Five things we learnt from this season in Arabian Gulf League

In the second of a series reviewing the 2013/14 campaign, Ahmed Rizvi looks at five things to remember before the next Arabian Gulf League term.

Ajman’s Simon Pierre Feindouno, centre, proved his critics wrong with eight goals this season. Sarah Dea / The National
Ajman’s Simon Pierre Feindouno, centre, proved his critics wrong with eight goals this season. Sarah Dea / The National

Olaroiu is a man with the Midas touch

Once could be an accident, twice might be a coincidence, but three times in a row? That is special.

And manager Cosmin Olaroiu is not just content with winning his third league title – he wants to go down in history as the first coach to make a clean sweep of domestic titles and has already collected three of the four trophies.

Olaroiu has faced plenty of problems this season after leaving Al Ain, yet he has managed to keep his Al Ahli team focused. You have to be a special one to do that, or have the Midas touch.

Match referees need to up their game

It is a thankless job, in any sport. Having said that, the refereeing standard this season was far from impressive.

There were several bloopers and controversies, and the late penalty awarded to Al Ahli against Ajman in Week 12 even led to an assault on the referee Hamad Al Shaikh.

The disputed penalty came almost a minute beyond the officially announced extra time. There have been incidents where the referee has overruled the linesman on an offside, even though he was a good 30 metres behind the action.

Suffice to say, the league would benefit from better officiating.

Next season could be a tough one

With the coin falling in their favour a few times – the injury-time winners and late penalties – Ahli managed to run away with the league title, but the competition below them suggests next season could be a closer tussle.

There were as many as seven teams competing for a top-four slot below the champions, and the leaderboard shows just how close it was in the end.

The Wahdas, Jaziras, Shababs and Al Ains, then, will be looking forward to next season, knowing they need just a bit of fine-tuning to challenge Ahli

Sacking coaches is not a quick fix

You can make a bad choice once, but when clubs keep repeating it through a season, or seasons, they are a bound to pay a price.

Hopefully, Dubai will learn that lesson as they spend next season in Division One.

Same with Al Wasl, though they managed to survive despite the upheaval. Perhaps club officials need to have more patience with foreign players and managers, who often require time to adapt to the UAE game. The success of the likes of Olaroiu, Marcos Paqueta and Boris Kabi show that good things come to those who wait.

Feindouno had no heart problems

Last season, the French-Guinean midfielder was dumped by Dubai late into the January transfer window, with the club claiming Feindouno had failed a cardiac test.

The player insisted otherwise and had various tests done abroad to prove his heart was in a good shape, but Dubai refused to listen.

In the summer, Ajman brought him in after more tests and the 28 year old has played his heart out for them, scoring eight goals in 24 matches. His performance earned him a nomination in the AGL’s Best Foreign Player category. Not bad for a player with a suspect heart.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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