x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Officials reject notions of corruption infiltrating UAE Pro League

Carlo Nohra, the former chief executive of the UAE's top-tier football league, among those to believe game has been clean in the country so far, writes Paul Oberjuerge.

Carlo Nohra does not believe the Pro League has needed policing. Jaime Puebla / The National
Carlo Nohra does not believe the Pro League has needed policing. Jaime Puebla / The National

A former chief executive of the country's top flight says the UAE Pro League "did not have any measures in place" to counter the threat of match fixing while he was employed by the league.

"It's not something we felt was prevalent in the UAE and needed measures to combat," said Carlo Nohra, the league's chief executive from early 2010 until July 2011.

"That was the prevailing view. I hope it's accurate," added Nohra, now the chief executive of the Al Jazira club. "But you don't know about these things until they rear their ugly head."

Two Emiratis with long familiarity of the domestic league yesterday also discounted the possibility of gamblers influencing the outcome of matches in the fashion described by European police on Monday.

Europol said they had identified nearly 700 suspicious matches from 2008 to 2011 in a global fixing scandal that included matches from the Uefa Champions League and World Cup qualifying.

"This doesn't relate to the UAE," said Khaled Awadh, the assistant chief executive of Al Wahda. "It is very hard to even imagine such things to take place in our competitions.

"Here the players, staff and the management are a close-knit family, so there is absolutely no chance for any outsider to approach the players or anyone, for that matter, without being noticed.

"I also don't think players can be lured by any outside force. They are well looked after and such practice is considered against our religion and culture."

Kefah Al Kaabi, sports director at the Arabic language 24.ae website, said: "Here, gambling is not a habit. The difference is between rich people and poor people. Our players are well paid, and they do not need to take money from gamblers."

However, he said that the information revealed by Europol "is a catastrophe for football".

He added: "We thought Italian football was the only one, but now it looks like the problem is much bigger and it will effect everyone. Can we trust anyone? This will be a shadow over all these games."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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