x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New league is different class

Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the UAE Football Association, is hoping the new Pro League will take the game to a level that will make the nation "proud".

DUBAI // Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the UAE Football Association, is hoping the new Pro League will take the game to a level that will make the nation "proud". The UAE's first-ever professional season will kick off on Sept 14 with the Super Cup match between league champions Al Shabab and President's cup winners Al Ahli. The 12-team Pro-League will then commence on Sept 19. From the 2009-2010 season, another division will be added to the league. Teams finishing in the bottom eight of the existing 16-team second division in the upcoming season will be playing in the second division from the next season.

The existing 16-team second division will become an eight-team competition from 2009-2010 and will be known as the first division, since the existing 12-team first division will be the new Pro League.

"I want to take the game to a level that we will all be proud of," said Rumaithi. "Of course, we have had many good moments in our history. We played in the World Cup in 1990. We won the Gulf Cup in 2007 and we were the runners-up in the Asian Cup in 1996. Al Ain won the AFC Champions League in 2003.

"So we have done some good things in the past. But now, we are in a new era. We are transforming. We will have our first professional league in the coming season. "The clubs are becoming more and more professional, and converting into commercial entities. They will become companies. "So, the whole vision is different now. We are going towards professionalism and our target is the kind of football we see in Europe." Rumaithi, who was elected president for a four-year term on May 28 following the first ever elections to the UAE FA, understands that there will be plenty of challenges ahead as they embark on their journey of professionalism.

"I cannot guarantee that the Pro League will be perfect or at 100 per cent in the first season," said the 42-year-old administrator. "There will be a few setbacks in the first year, and it is natural. We just have to learn from them and improve for the coming seasons. "What I would like to see next year is our clubs playing football every week. We don't want to see stoppages for two, three or four weeks like we had in the last season. "When the professionals or internationals players go away for national duty, I would like to see the reserve players playing in the League, the Professional League Cup, the President's Cup or whatever competitions we have. "So I would like to see football being played every week and I would like to see the fans in the stadium. "I would like to see companies coming forward to sponsor. I would also like our national television channels to come forward and sponsor the national league and buy the live rights. I would like to see the fans buying tickets and supporting their clubs. Not like the previous years, when the fans entered the stadium for free. So, there are a lot of changes we are hoping will happen."