x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Semi-pro issue a full-time concern for Pro League

League officials have voiced concerns on the demands being made of their Emirati semi-pro players, but there seem to be few solutions in a country were football has yet to reach a stage where it can provide a secure future full-time.

Some players in the Pro League still hold down full-time jobs outside of football - the same situation Adel Abdullah faced before he got his first professional contract.

Each club has at least a handful of players who have other jobs or are full-time students. These players sometimes struggle to make it to training sessions or are too tired to participate - a fact that rankles coaches, such as Diego Maradona and Walter Zenga, former international stars who are not comfortable with such an arrangement.

League officials and the UAE Football Association have voiced similar concerns.

But there seem to be few solutions in a country where football has yet to reach a stage where it can provide a secure future for all local players.

"We know that some players refuse to leave their jobs when signing professional contracts with the clubs for fear of their future," said Dr Salem Al Shamsi, the chairman of the FA's Commission on the Status and Transfer of Players.

"If I am a player and I have a family, and I know I have a contract for three years, I might be without a club for a year after that. What will I do then? Or I might play for 10 years, but what will I do after retirement? ... Most players prefer to be semi-professional because there is no financial security in playing football."

Asian Football Confederation regulations state that every club must have 20 full-time local professional players. Al Shamsi said this has been made clear to the clubs, but they allow players to keep their jobs, because, he said: "even the clubs find it difficult to sign full-time professional players.

"When the clubs submit these contracts to the FA for approval, they do not mention anything about the player's other job.

"So, it is really difficult for us to find out."

Abdullah Nasser Al Junaibi, the vice-chairman of the Pro League Committee, understands the insecurities of the players and said the days of full-time professional football players will come gradually.

"We have started just three years ago, but everyone is looking for quick results," he said.

"It will take time to have 100 per cent professional players with every team, but I believe it will be happen soon."

Al Shamsi said the issue of training time does not apply to all part-time players.

"Legally, we have 20 professionals at every club. They might have a job, but they are not going to their offices because they are playing football; they have an excuse not to go to work," he said. "So this [players missing training] is certainly not a general case,

"But some players, especially in senior positions at their jobs, might not want to stay away from their offices because being away for five or 10 years could affect their chances of promotion and all that."

arizvi@thenational.ae


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