giovedì 13 ottobre 2011

Not in Dubai for a holiday: UAE Pro-League 2011-12 season preview

The 2011-2012 UAE Pro League kicks off this weekend. This Pro League edition could be the most competitive in the country history. Journalists from Argentina, Britain and Belgium are ready to the fill report from UAE. The Pro-League don't want see old player joining league's ranks which can not only contribute or head coaches coming just here for money and spending their time in off field activities. Behind Diego Maradona's move to the UAE in the same summer as David Trezeguet joined Baniyas, Juan Manuel Olivera arrived at Al Wasl or Al Ahli signed Grafite, there are the UAE teams' owners to rise up the domestic league level. And some others big-names came in the UAE this summer or already was in the Emirates: Hugo and Magrao, Azizbek Haydarov of Uzbekistan and Australian captain Lucas Neill, Ismail Bangoura and Jociel Ferreira...The trend is to recruit veteran foreigners with still left in the tank or younger rising stars. This season, each league club could sign a fourth foreigner if he's a player for an Asian Football Confederation country. And what about the bunch of coaches? You have five former National Team coaches in Diego Maradona (Argentina), Josef Hickersberger (Austria), Ivan Hasek (Czech Republic), Frank Vercauteren (Belgium) and Jorvan Vieira (Iraq). Another sign of the improvement is the balance: there is not a clear favourite to win the league title. There are the champions Al Jazira, but you can't rule out teams as Ahli or Al Ain and to have to take a look to side such as Baniyas or Al Nasr. 

Diego Maradona told Al Wasl's fans to "stay home and watch a comedy DVD" if they are scared to watch the Al Wasl, after his side succumbed to a 4-3 against UAE champions of Al Jazira on the opening Etilasat Cup day.  Argentine midfielder Mariano Donda, Uruguayan striker Juan Manuel Olivera and Chilean Edson Puch are the summer buys to add to gifted Khalid Darwish, nicknamed "Khalidona", and to captain Eisa Ali:  "Eisa is going to always play alongside Mariano Donda, Juan Manuel Olivera, Ahmed Darwesh and Majid Nasser — this is the main axis of my team," Maradona said. After a devastanding loss, 5-0, against rival Dubai in the Etisalat Cup, Al Wasl announced the signing of Al Ahli striker Abdullah Abdul Rahman on a one-season loan. Will Maradona last the season?

"The best attack on paper", according to Al Ain's new forward, Asamoah Gyan. The Ghana players is likely to be paired up top with new recruited former Asian player of the year and Saudi Arabian captain Yasser Al Qahtani, an one-year loan from Hilal. This sign completed the summer transitions. The new head coach, Romanian Cosmin Olariou, a former Steaua Bucharest coach, is confident on team's potential. After finished 10th in the league last season, the club lost Brazilian Marcio Emerson and Chile international Jorge Valdivia through the summer but signed Argentine forward Ignacio Scocco and Romanian Mirel Radoi. Al Ain also added Ismail Ahmed and Rami Yaslam. Add goalkeeper Dawoud Sulaiman and, on paper, the 2011/12 Al Ain seems a great team. 

Al Ahli, coach Ivan Hasek's side, signed Chilean playmaker Luis Jimenez to play alongside foreign signings of Jaja and former Bundeliga's Player of the Year, Grafite.They signed this summer the Socceroos captain Lucas Neill, who joined Jazira after his experience at Turkish club Galatasaray. Also from Turkey is Jaja Coelho coming from Trabzonspor. As center back, they had back the former Lebanon captain, Mohammed Yousuf.

Al Wahda's Josef Hickersberger line up an offensive mind team in front of goalkeeper Mutaz Abdullah. Al Wahda can count on players as Brazilian duo formed by Hugo and Fernando Baiano, who played forward for big clubs such as Corinthians or Bundesliga' side Wolfsburg, Mahmoud Khamis, forward Ismail Matar, coming back from a knee injury, and central defender Hamdan Al Kamali which could paired with 30-year-old Basheer Saeed. Omani defender Mohammad Shaiba, released by Al Wasl, is the fourth Asian professional addition alongside retained Brazilians.

After three consecutive seasons as runners-up, Al Jazira dominated the 2010/11 season. The defending champions retained the attacking duo of Ricardo Oliveira and Bare alongside Matias Delgado. The loss of Abel Braga was a huge loss as the team lost only four of 66 matches under Brazilian coach. New manager Franky Vercauteren left Champion League's side Genk to lead Al Jazira alongside his assistants Hugo Broos and David Coles. He was impressend with striker Ali Mabkhout, an UAE Under-23 team and can count on Ibrahim Diaky, the 30 year old captain from the Ivory Coast, now in his eighth year in the UAE league. The team can also count on international UAE players Jumaa Abdulla, Khaled Sabeel, Subait Khater, Ahmed Jumaa, Abdulla Mosa, and Ibrahim Diaky, the captain.

Bani Yas will line up forward David Trezeguet up front. The Frenchman, 33, agreed a €1.7million deal with Jorvan Vieira’s time. The former Juventus players will be sorrounded by playmakers Amer Abdulrahman and Haboush Saleh. And he will play alongside Andre Senghor, last season's top goal scorer with 18 goals. They also have the Omani captain Fawzi Basheer in the mix. The team had a huge loss after the death of winger Thiyab Awana and went from a poor Etiaslat Cup.

Al Shabab retained Brazilians Julio Cesar and Jociel Ferreira, and Chilean Carlos Villanueva, all three of the non-Asian players from last season. A great addition is Uzbekistan's Azizbek Haydarov, three Uzbek league titles and two cups with Lokomotiv Tashkent and Bunyodkor. The coach is Paulo Bonamigo,  former top-division Portugal club Maritimo coach. Defense needs of Walid Abbas and Essa Mohammed to produce.

Sharjah chosen the Romanian Valeriu Tita, former Syria national team's coach, to lead the team following the earlier resignation of Carlos Azenho due to personal reasons. One of Sharjah's acquisitions is Brazilian midfielder Edinho, who will play alongside his compatriot Marcelo Oliveira. Brazilian Anderson, league top scorer four years in a row, is one of the top team's player. Defence isstill an issue.

Brazilian Carlos Tenorio is the Al Nasr's striker. Coached by former superstar goalkeeper and former Palermo and Catania's head coach in Italy, Walter Zenga, Al Nasr was under the radar this preseason but they have a lot of talents in a roster including Ismael Bangoura, Mark Bresciano, and Leo Lima. Al Nasr also added this summer the Togolese midfielder Asimo Iowa, coming from with Nuremburg’s second team. They have experience all around.

Ghazi Ghrairi leads Emirates Club in the Pro-League after gained the promotion last aseason. He added Iranian international Pejman Pouri in front of the back line and Jordan’s winger Amed Deeb after his performances in the 2011 Asian Cup. They are inexperienced and could have trobules battling in the relegation zone if the forwards will not work.

Umberto Barberis has replaced Nestor Clausen,a former Maradona's teammate in the 1986 World Cup, as coach of Dubai Club. Their also changed their foreign pros replacing  French-Algerian forward Eyeman Henaini. Moroccan Nabil Daoudi is the striker of a team with not so many forwards. Faouzi Mubarak Aaish from Bahrain is the Asian player. No big-name signings but they showed that they can score goals. Just ask to Maradona.

After leading Al Khaleej, Iraqi manager Abdulwahab Abdulkadir took over Ajman. Ibrahima Touré, a former FC Metz, and Karim Kerbar, Man City on his résumé, are the team most valuable players. The club recently agreed a year-long loan move for 23-year-old Lebanese striker Hassan Maatouk. Team showed improvement during the Etisalat Cup but defense is the Achilles heel yet...

Gameweek 1 fixtures
Saturday Emirates v Dubai, Emirates Club Stadium, Ras al-Khaimah
Saturday Al Shabab v Al Wahda, Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai
Saturday Al Jazira v Al Ahli, Mohammad bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Sunday Ajman v Bani Yas, Rashid bin Saeed Stadium, Ajman
Sunday Al Ain v Al Nasr, Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium, Al Ain
Sunday Al Wasl v Sharjah, Zabeel Stadium, Duabi.

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