x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

No rest for promoted clubs Al Shaab and Al Dhafra

Busy schedule leaves Pro League newcomers with little time to prepare or recruit new players.

Makhete Diop, right, the Al Shaab forward, and his teammates, who beat Al Dhafra, in red, on Friday, will be in action again on Tuesday in the Etisalat Cup, where they face Dubai. Mike Young / The National
Makhete Diop, right, the Al Shaab forward, and his teammates, who beat Al Dhafra, in red, on Friday, will be in action again on Tuesday in the Etisalat Cup, where they face Dubai. Mike Young / The National

AL AIN // The coaches of Al Shaab and Al Dhafra face a race against time to prepare themselves for the new Pro League season, which kicks off a week today.

A 3-2 win for Shaab in the game between the pair in Al Ain on Friday night sent both sides through from the four-team promotion play-offs at the expense of Sharjah and Emirates.

Now, after having faced three games in eight days, they must prepare for the opening round of Etisalat Cup games, which starts on Tuesday, before the 2012/13 campaign begins days later.

Both clubs will also be looking to recruit an Asian player to bolster their ranks.

"It is very tough, but the schedule has been done and we will try to do our best to return for these games by taking all the positives forward from the play-off," said Sergio Alexandre, the Shaab coach.

His side host Dubai on Tuesday in the cup then travel to Kalba for their league opener on September 23.

"We will have a one-day rest and start preparing for the next game," added the Brazilian.

"It has been an exhausting two-and-a-half months but it was worth all that now that we are back in the top-flight competition.

"There is a lot of work ahead for us, like strengthening the squad and this we will discuss with the club management. As for the time being, we will try to regroup this team for our next game."

It has been an exhausting period for Dzemal Hadziabdic, the coach of Dhafra, and he admitted he wanted to "put [his] head down and get a good sleep" after the match.

The Bosnian has already conceded he would not field his best team for their Etisalat Cup opener at Baniyas on Wednesday.

"I am very tired and I believe the players are, too," he said.

"We have been preparing for the play-off non-stop and now we go into the next competition without any break.

"I would have been happy if we had three weeks before the next competition but this is a programme drawn up by the Football Association and we can't do anything about it.

"We will give the opportunity for other players in our first game in the Etisalat Cup. We have some players that we need to see. It has been a very hard few months training in the summer and the fasting month of Ramadan."

Both Dhafra and Shaab are short of a fourth foreign player with an Asian passport and their next task involves finding one as quickly as possible.

Division One rules do not allow for an extra Asian player so the clubs had to wait until promotion was confirmed to begin their search.

"We have done some contingency planning but how can we have a player on our radar when we were not sure if we would earn promotion?" Hadziabdic said.

"We have some idea but there is no hurry."

"There are lots of questions but I don't have any answers for them right now. I am just happy we achieved our objective. I think it is the best two teams that got promoted at the end."

apassela@thenational.ae

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