x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Gregory Dufrennes ready to run his Kalba side back to Pro League

The French striker feels ignored and defeating the top-tier Sharjah side in the President's Cup be a morale-booster for him and his team.

Gregory Dufrennes was the third highest scorer in the Pro League last season.
Gregory Dufrennes was the third highest scorer in the Pro League last season.

Ittihad Kalba may no longer be in the Pro League, but anyone who watched them last season will surely remember the fleet-footed Frenchman, Gregory Dufrennes.

A former France junior team player, Dufrennes was the heart of his team, running at defences, marshalling the midfield and rushing back to defend when the situation demanded.

His efforts were not enough to keep Kalba in the Pro League, but the 28-year-old midfielder still finished third on the league's goal-scoring list with 12.

Yet, as he contemplated his future after the end of the season, Dufrennes had only one Pro League club interested in his services; the others were scampering around the globe, looking for new players.

"Really, I was very surprised to see none of the clubs were interested in hiring me because I believe I scored plenty of goals and did really well for Kalba," Dufrennes said.

"Instead, they preferred to bring players from outside and that made me really sad. Most of the teams in the Pro League bring in new players who don't know the country and need a lot of time to adapt.

"Some of them last for only two or three months and don't score too many goals. That's why I am a little sad about the situation. I see some of the players in the Pro League and I wonder what am I doing in Division One.

"I am also very sad for Karim Kerkar. He is a really good friend, but I believe he is the best professional player in the league at the moment and he is playing for Ajman. Really, I don't understand this.

"I came to the UAE in January, 2006, and everybody knows me. I believe I can give more in the Pro league and help teams.

"But what can I do? I am not the president of those clubs."

With no options available, Dufrennes committed himself to Kalba with only one condition: that he be given a two-year contract instead of one. "I cannot play in Division One, give my everything to the club and then find myself without a contract once they get promoted," said Dufrennes, adding that he is really happy at Kalba and appreciates all the support he receives from them.

"With two years, I will get one year on the Pro League if we get promoted this season.

"But if we don't get a promotion, I am free."

Kalba are currently fifth in Group A of Division One, and Dufrennes is determined to help his team win one of the two promotion spots.

He is so focused on returning to the Pro League that even today's President's Cup quarter-final against Sharjah fails to excite him.

"It is a really big game for all the players because we are the smallest team now in the President's Cup," Dufrennes said.

"We will try to do our best and hope to get a positive result.

"But if we lose, it is not a problem because the league is our priority at the moment.

"We have a very important game against [the league leaders] Dibba Al Fujairah next week, so we will probably use this match against Sharjah to prepare for the next game."

Dufrennes and Kalba's two other foreign players, Elias Kano and Abdulqadir Miqdad, are doubtful for the match, which would pit the Frenchman against his former coach Jorvan Vieira.

Those three are among five players on Kalba's injury list, but the striker, Abdulaziz Abdullah, promised Sharjah will not have it easy.

"The morale is really high and we want to qualify for the last four," Abdullah said. "We know Sharjah are a Pro League team, but we will come out fighting."

Sharjah know that and Bader Ahmed, a member of the team management, acknowledged it will be "difficult", especially since Kalba will be keen to do well against Vieira.

"The match also comes at a difficult time for us, when we are struggling to get the right results," Ahmed said. "So we know it will not be easy, but we hope we can get everything together in this game and qualify for the semis."