Keep your temper in check Abdulrahman, Europe’s watching
Al Ahli’s President’s Cup semi-final victory over Al Ain last Sunday was many things; at times ugly, at others downright dirty but throughout it was enthralling.
In a region where too many games are played out in deserted venues, it was encouraging to see the sheer amount of fans trying to get into the Al Nahyan Stadium. Tensions were heightened by recent events between the two sides, but while the spectators in the stands fed off it, Al Ain buckled under the weight of its pressure.
The Boss were too eager to cry foul in the first-half and it cost them dear. As soon as one of their players was booked, the referee’s decision was immediately met with indignation, while coach Cosmin Olaroiu could be seen adding an element of pantomime to proceedings on the touchline.
Al Ain carried the baggage of the past month into the game, failed to play the opposition that was in front of them and paid the price. The second-half red cards for Mohamed Ahmed, Omar Abdulrahman and Cosmin Olaroiu merely compounded their misery.
It is now up to the UAE FA’s Disciplinary Committee to decide what action they will take against the club, but the petulant reaction of Abdulrahman to his late sending off has left a sour taste.
The midfielder holds a unique place in the affections of football fans in the UAE. By far the most popular of the team that lifted the Gulf Cup in January, the 21-year-old’s appeal appears to transcend traditional club rivalries.
While Ahli fans readily booed and mocked any Boss player who touched the ball in the opening exchanges on Sunday, Abdulrahman was afforded some leeway.
Even when he attempted to win a penalty, he was warmly greeted by the Red Knights’ supporters behind the goal as he trotted sheepishly towards them to collect the ball. So to see the youngster sent off for dissent – the second red card of his short career – and then sarcastically applaud referee Ammer Ali Abdulla Al Junaibi’s decision is more than a little disappointing.
Abdulrahman is rightly loved in the UAE and it is hoped in time he will grace one of the big four leagues in Europe. He definitely has the skill to do so, although fears over the state of his knees persist, but he must not allow himself to become too big for his brand new Nike boots.
The midfielder is clearly the best Emirati player in the league right now and comes in for a lot of stick from opposition players, but that does not give him licence to act up. Clubs in Europe will certainly take temperament into account before making a move.
THE UNDERRATED VIRTUE OF PATIENCE
It was hard not to feel for Josef Hickersberger as his rescue act at Al Wahda came to an end before it had even begun. Prior to the Abu Dhabi club’s 2-0 President’s Cup semi-final defeat to Al Shabab in Al Ain, the Austrian had suggested it would take something “special” to reach the final.
Seven days proved too little time to reinvigorate the squad, even though he knew most of them from his previous two spells at the club. The question therefore must be why do clubs in the UAE press the panic button so quickly and at such inopportune times?
Both Luis Milla at Al Jazira and Laurent Banide at Al Dhafra have bemoaned the difficulty of coming in mid-season and trying to get to know players on the hoof.
Banide, who took over in December, believes it takes time to understand players, and for them to understand you. The ideal time to do that being pre-season. It’s no surprise that Dhafra are in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten run now that the Frenchman has settled in.
Milla knows Hickersberger’s pain well, having been parachuted into the Jazira hot-seat just days before a double-header against Tractor Sazi and Al Ain. Both games were lost and the club’s season took a predictable turn for the worse.
The Spaniard has managed to steady the ship and on Tuesday was grateful to have finally had a full week to work with the players. A change is not always as good as a rest.