UAE champions Al Ain dominated the 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League Awards on Thursday night, headlined by captain and star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman being crowned Emirati of the year.
The Garden City club, who clinched the top-flight title for the first time in three years, collected a number of honours at the ceremony at Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Abdulrahman was named the league's best local, while manager Zoran Mamic was voted the league’s top coach and Khalid Essa the goalkeeper of the year. Hussein El Shahat, the Egyptian midfielder, won the fans’ award.
Meanwhile, Al Wahda collected a couple of marquee prizes, with goalkeeper Mohammed Al Shamsi taking young player of the year and striker Sebastian Tagliabue named the league’s best foreign player. Wahda finished second in the table, seven points behind Al Ain, and captured the Arabian Gulf Cup.
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Abdulrahman, 26, was voted best Emirati for a third time, beating to the award teammate Rayan Yaslam and Al Jazira’s Ali Mabkhout. In captaining Al Ain to the title, the UAE international celebrated a fourth UAE championship with the club.
“I’m extremely pleased with the award,” Abdulrahman said. “It is good to finish as the best player and I want to continue in the same way next season. I want to ensure Al Ain also stays there at the top, and I thank my teammates and my club for helping me take this award.”
Mamic played an integral role in Al Ain’s historic season in his first full campaign at the club. Not only did they win the title, losing only one match, but they also clinched the President’s Cup crown. It represents the first time Al Ain have taken both trophies in the same campaign.
“Ok, we won the double, we have had another great season and so I believe we deserve the awards,” said the Croat, who was nominated alongside Wanda's Laurentiu Reghecampf and Sharjah's Abdulaziz Al Anbari. “It’s a great thing to receive this personal award.
“But it’s not just an award for me. This is teamwork. It’s a big team behind me who help me, the players of course, the club and the fans. Everybody together makes this award for me and that’s why I give my thanks to all of them.”
Breaking Al Ain’s stranglehold on the night’s proceedings, Tagliabue was crowned the league’s best import for the second time. The Argentine, who this week signed a new two-year extension with the Abu Dhabi side, led the goalscoring charts until the penultimate round before being pipped to the Golden Boot by Al Ain’s Marcus Berg. Eventually finishing with 23 goals, Tagliabue won the award ahead of Berg and Al Wasl's Fabio De Lima.
“I’m very happy to win, more happy than the last time I won this award,” Tagliabue said. “Because last time I was top scorer and this helped me. This time I wasn’t top scorer, which is special because it means I was not only scoring but gave other things to my team.
“So this is a big, big gift. When you are nominated of course you hope and you want to win, but there is a lot of very good foreign players in this league. For that, I am very proud. There are amazing players here and for the people to choose me as the best it makes me very happy.”