x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Games called off at 11th hour

The UAE Professional League belied its name on Friday night by announcing the postponement of three of the weekend's league games less than 24 hours before kick off.

DUBAI // The UAE Professional League belied its name on Friday night by announcing the postponement of three of the weekend's league games less than 24 hours before kick off. Despite the fact that the Asian Champions League fixtures have been public knowledge for almost two months, the Pro League left it until the final hour to reveal that two weeks ago they decided that three of the games involving the UAE's representatives should be called off to give the teams the "maximum possible time to prepare" for their campaign in Asia.

There are four UAE clubs taking part in the Champions League and the Pro League matches involving Al Ahli, Al Jazira and Al Sharjah have been postponed to April 12. However, Al Shabab, who host Bunyodkor on Wednesday, will play Al Khaleej tonight as scheduled. Al Ahli were to host Al Wasl yesterday and then travel to Iran for their second Group C match against Saba Battery on Tuesday. Al Jazira would have had to travel to Al Shaab and then fly out to Tehran for Wednesday's match against Esteghlal. Sharjah would have had the toughest task, playing Al Wahda today and then hosting Qatar's Al Garrafa on Tuesday.

"Until last year, the AFC Champions League matches were played on Wednesdays," explained Abdullah al Junaibi, the chairman of Professional League Association's Competitions Committee. "So we had drawn up our schedule accordingly. "This year, however, games are being held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So we decided to postpone the matches to give our teams more time to prepare. We made this decision in advance; we did not want to wait for the clubs to protest against the scheduling."

Romy Gai, the CEO of the UAE Football League, revealed the decision was made a fortnight ago. He said: "We discussed the issue and decided it would be better for us to postpone the games, and give our teams enough time to prepare and express their maximum possible levels in Asia. "This situation will also help us to prepare a better schedule for the next season and avoid postponements later in the season."

Despite Gai's optimism, the late postponements of these games raises questions. With travelling fans and television coverage to take into consideration, surely this problem was easy to foresee? arizvi@thenational.ae