x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE Pro League: ugly spats mar beautiful game

The Pro League could do without such episodes, especially after the exciting start to the season.

Quique Sanchez Flores, left, was slapped in the back by Al Wasl goalkeeper Majed Naser, second right.
Quique Sanchez Flores, left, was slapped in the back by Al Wasl goalkeeper Majed Naser, second right.

After a summer of will-he-or-won't-he, Majed Naser has finally moved to Al Ahli, signing the deal on the final day of the transfer window.

Speculation over his imminent move away from Al Wasl had been doing the rounds since June, but officials from both Wasl and Ahli either chose not to comment or denied those reports. Now it is official.

Naser has moved on a free transfer to a club where he caused a storm back in March following Wasl's defeat in the Etisalat Cup semi-finals.

After the game, in a state of rage, he slapped Ahli's coach Quique Sanchez Flores on the back of his head and spat at Ahli's Lebanese defender Yousuf Mohammed. The incident earned him a 17-match ban.

Sanchez Flores has been magnanimous and has forgiven. The Spaniard welcomed him to the club, expressed his happiness at the deal and praised Naser's goalkeeping abilities. The 28-year-old Emirati will now be playing with the Ahli reserve team until his suspension expires in December.

And then, if everything goes well, he could make his first team debut sometime in the second half of the season.

Given Naser's history, though, anything can happen between now and January. But if he does get into the first team, it would be interesting to see how Yousuf Mohammed reacts.

The Lebanon international had expressed his displeasure in clear terms when the rumours of Naser's move to Ahli first surfaced in June. There is a lot of time ahead for them to make their peace, though.

Can Hamdan Al Kamali and Azizbek Haydarov do the same? The Al Wahda defender and Shabab's Uzbek midfielder had a tiff during their match in Abu Dhabi on Saturday and the incident has since been blown out of proportion.

Both have gone to the media with their claims and counter-claims.

Al Kamali says Haydarov "assaulted" him (it was an elbow to the chest region) and later spat at him, as well. He now wants "justice" from the Football Association's Disciplinary Committee as the match officials did not take any action against the Uzbek.

On the other hand, Haydarov claims Al Kamali kept cursing him right through the game, taunting him over his ethnicity. He also said he had complained to the referee, but the abuses continued and he eventually lost his cool.

The committee will have a tough time deciding on this episode, but since his arrival in the Pro League, Haydarov has never given the impression of being a man of temper or extreme behaviour. The same could be said of Al Kamali as well: he plays tough, but fair.

Both, however, could have shown better sense in this case and not taken the issue beyond the pitch especially since the match officials did not think it worthy of a reprimand.

The Pro League could do without such episodes, especially after the exciting start to the season.

With 47 goals in 14 matches, it has been a hugely entertaining affair until now, except for the officials of Dibba Al Fujairah, perhaps.

Playing in the top division for the first time in their history, Dibba have spent more time travelling than training. Forced to play their home matches in Al Ain as their stadium does not meet the requirements of the Pro League, the team has travelled to Ajman, Dubai and Al Ain for their three matches.

For Round 4, later this month, they have a "home" match with Al Ain in Al Ain, at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, which serves as Al Ain's training pitch.

To make matters worse, they have to shell out as much as Dh200,000 in rent and organisational cost for every "home" match in Al Ain.

For a club of modest means, it is a huge expenditure and their dream of playing top-flight football is gradually turning sour.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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