The Sobis Affect
Abel Braga turned 56 at the outset of the month, and was presented with a birthday cake by the Al Jazira squad. The icing was put on it a few days later. In persuading the Brazil striker Rafael Sobis to leave Real Betis and join him in the UAE pro league, Braga probably felt as satisfied as one of the fishermen who last year landed an eight-ton whale shark off the coast of China. Sobis weighed in at 65 million dirhams.
In the relative obscurity of the UAE, Sobis represents a whopper. At this level, his pedigree establishes him as a largish fish in a smallish pond. Sobis is out to regain his vigour, snag some goals and hoist himself back up the ladder of a return to a higher plane of the European game. He is not here for the long term, but that should not be an issue. His immediate remit is to deliver the goals that will help Jazira to a first national title after unsuccessfully having a go at it over the past 34 years.
They came close last season when they finished runners-up to Al Shabab in a tense finish and Sobis should provide the extra edge. His signing is no small deal, or change. At the age of 23, this is a player who will blossom. He will complete one or two seasons here before returning to Europe but providing he can avoid the injuries that belittled his time in the Spanish league, the locals should enjoy him.
Paired with Ronaldinho at the Olympic Games last month, Sobis scored as Brazil departed Beijing with a bronze medal. He has snared 10 caps, founded by the 19 goals he scored in 35 games three years ago when Braga managed Internacional in Brazil. Sobis appears to be happy having being adorned with a mansion and a sparkling car by his new employers. "It is like living in paradise here," he has said recently.
While the Abu Dhabi links to football overseas and the purchase of Manchester City have dominated the digest of news relating to the English Premier League, the signing of Sobis was trampled under the headlines. One wonders what role Sobis played in Kevin Keegan's departure from Newcastle United. Betis rejected a ?10m (Dh53.2m) offer from Newcastle for Sobis in July. Braga's snagged two other compatriots for his Jazira squad in the Brazilian players Fernando Baiano and Márcio Rosario, plus the UAE international Subait Khater from Al Ain. There is a tale that suggests Braga agreed to replace the departing manager Laszlo Boloni only if Jazira agreed to double his money.
While Sobis is out to improve himself in the UAE, there is a similar motivation for Braga, a man who coached Internacional to the World Club Championship in 2006. Money never made a man, or a manager. Sipping drinks on Copacobana beach may sound appealing, but the game's pull remains overwhelming for men such as Braga. firstname.lastname@example.org Club information Based: Abu Dhabi Ground: Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium
Capacity: 15,000 (under reconstruction) Year formed: 1974 Colours: White, black and red Captain: Saleh Obaid President: Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Coach: Abel Braga Nickname: The Black Spider Tel: 02 4454455 Last season League: Finished runners-up in Division One Honours: UAE Federation Cup 2007, Gulf Club Champions Cup 2007 Transfers in: Rafael Sobis, Fernando Baiano, Márcio Rosario, Subait Khater, Helal Saeed,
Transfers out: Phillip Cocu, Mamadou Diallo, Bonaventure Kalou, Hassan Sohail, Mohammed Sayed