x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Marius Sumudica feels the strain as pressure comes to a head at Al Shaab

After a scoreless draw with Al Wasl, all the focus falls on Al Shaab's final match of the season as only a win will help them escape relegation, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Al Wasl’s Mohammad Yaqoob Abass, centre, manoeuvres with the ball against Al Shaab’s Hassan Maatouk during Saturday's scoreless draw. Al Ittihad
Al Wasl’s Mohammad Yaqoob Abass, centre, manoeuvres with the ball against Al Shaab’s Hassan Maatouk during Saturday's scoreless draw. Al Ittihad

Al Shaab 0 Al Wasl 0

Man of the match Waheed Ismail (Al Wasl)

SHARJAH // It is a surprise Marius Sumudica did not lose his voice after his 90 minutes of lung-bursting histrionics on Saturday night.

The Al Shaab manager's screams could be heard over the loud music and singing at the Khaled bin Mohammed Stadium. And there were more than a few thousand fans in the stadium.

Ranting and raving without a pause, the Romanian must have spent more energy than his players as well.

In the end, though, all of it was in vain. Shaab's 0-0 draw with Al Wasl – the first goalless result of the league since the stalemate between Al Ahli and Baniyas in the eighth week – means Sumudica is still a man waiting on tenterhooks.

His team failed to get the win they needed to settle their tense relegation battle with Dibba Al Fujairah, who won 2-1 at already-relegated Kalba on Saturday night.

The second team headed back for Division One will now be decided in the final round Saturday.

"This was a really strange game," an agitated Sumudica said after the match, screaming again at the top of his voice.

"I know the players were under pressure to win this game, but when you are afraid of the ball, it is difficult to play football. You must have confidence, you must show some personality."

The Romanian was hugely disappointed with the performance of his players, saying they failed to match the passion he has for the team.

"In five months, I think I have lost five years of my life," he said. "I was speaking with my wife last night on Skype and she thought I was some other person because all my hair has turned white. I am 42 but I look 60. For what? Why I am I doing this?

"Because I have a lot of passion for football … because I love this game and I want all my players to have the same attitude as me. But if there is only one Sumudica [in the team], we have a big problem."

Shaab have 22 points now while Dibba are on 20 going into the final round of the Pro League, and if Sumudica's men lose at Al Shabab and Dibba manage to beat Ajman, the Sharjah team will be back in Division One after making it to the Pro League through the four-team play-offs in September.

"If we win or get one point, we stay in the Pro League; if we lose, we go down to Division One," Sumudica said.

"It is up to the players now. If they want to stay in the Pro League, they have to fight and give more than 100 per cent. Until now, I have given more 1,000 per cent for this team, but the final game is not about me now … it is about the players."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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