x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Garden City's Al Ain Club a nursery for sport

Venue is a hub for many sporting disciplines such as volleyball and handball.

Al Ain’s handball team, in purple, lost their first match in three games as they went down to Al Jazira at the Khalifa Stadium.
Al Ain’s handball team, in purple, lost their first match in three games as they went down to Al Jazira at the Khalifa Stadium.

Sports enthusiasts in the Garden City know there is only one place to go when they feel the need to satisfy their thirst for competition - the Al Ain Club.

Last night the club's indoor stadium was the focus of attention when the venue staged a UAE league double header with Al Ain's handball and volleyball teams both in action, although it ended in disappointment for the home supporters.

The handball game brought a first defeat in three games for the host team. They were beaten 25-22 by Al Jazira, who joined Al Ahli of Dubai on three wins each in the handball league.

The volleyball team went down to Al Wasl in a five-set thriller 29-27, 19-25, 24-26, 25-20, 16-14 in the first of their five-match play-off series.

"All is not lost because we are still in the race in the best of five-match play-off," said Fadel Ibrahim, the team manager for Al Ain.

"It was a match we could have won if not for the mistakes at crucial periods of the games. We can still take a lot of positives from it and still reach the final."

Al Shabab and Al Nasr are the two other teams taking part in the play-offs.

The Garden City is proving to be a sporting hub not only among the locals but also the expatriate community.

Saracens, the English rugby union side, will play the Fijian champions in a ground-breaking fixture in the city on March 9 while the Al Ain Equestrian and Golf Club was the venue for the final Middle East leg of the FEI World Cup show jumping qualifier two weeks ago.

However, only a handful of spectators were present on a chilly evening to watch Al Ain's handball and volleyball teams.

Nasser Al Neyadi, an immigration and emigration officer who works at the Abu Dhabi International Airport, was one of them.

A former volleyball player for the club, he had arrived along with his three-year-old daughter Al Yaziy to watch the action.

"It was my day-off and I was able to spend some time watching my team," he said, explaining handball and volleyball do not have as big a following as football.

"Football is the most popular and we have a passionate and the biggest fan following. This is because unlike in the other emirates where the crowds are divided between four or five clubs, there is only one club in Al Ain."

Al Neyadi also reflected on the time the football club won six league titles, five President's Cup medals and the Asian Champions League in 2003.

"Al Ain are back in the trophy hunt," he said.

"It has been a long wait since we won the league five times from 1998 to 2004 and the President's Cup five times from 1999 to 2009. We are very hopeful of winning the league."

 

apassela@thenational.ae

 

@ For more on AL AIN football team, visit thenational.ae/topics