How could I not write about this? So I watched my boyhood club Al Ahli play Al Wasl, a while back in the semi’s of the president’s cup (UAE’s equivalent of FA cup). This was my first opportunity to watch Fabio Cannavaro play in person. One moment of brilliance displayed (a backheel) – the crowd applauded. A short while later, Mexican waves were seen in the desert. They had lost the game, however his presence definitely lifted the atmosphere. The game sucked but can’t complain because the tickets were free. AND there were no fights after the game either (at least among the fans). I was expecting swords and sticks.
Getting back to my footynion, Al Ahli like many other clubs in the Middle East have been investing heavily on big name foreign players for quite some time now. Players like Philip Cocu, Gabriel Batistuta, Khodadad Azizi, Karim Bagheri and most recently Fabio Cannavaro, Carlos Tenorio, Diego Maradona (as coach of Al Wasl), etc have plied or are currently pursuing their trades in the region. Obviously, from a purely footballing perspective, the presence of highly experienced international players raises the standards of the league and helps the younger local players to improve and learn from the best.
But I am always curious on why do these players end up moving here or are being brought to this region. Money may be? Damn right why else? Clubs have money to spend and why wouldn’t players move if they were being paid million dollars for a single season?
“I always thought of moving to live in Dubai as I love it and I have achieved my dream by moving to Dubai and play for one of its big clubs like Al Ahli.” – Fabio Cannavaro on his move to UAE.
I would agree with the first part of the statement. Yes, I could see a foreigner enjoying Dubai. We all do. But the second part – achieved his dream by moving to Dubai. Really Cannavaro? Did you actually dream about this while you were playing with and for the best at Internazionale, Juventus and Madrid? Yes the dream of an expat to move to a region where the average weather temp hits 40 C. Yes the dream, where the culture is completely different to that they come from with observable restrictions and limitations.
Nonetheless, as the clubs in the region are abundant with disposable income, it would only be in their benefit to bring in quality professionals to teach and help nurture the youngsters. Additionally, these imports would also help in attracting the larger expat population to the stadiums and fill up the seats. I know it worked with me when I had the opportunity to watch Cannavaro play.
As the leagues reach out to complete their move towards the goals set by the AFC to achieve the status of “professional”, it would only be ideal to start by bring in players like Cannavaro and Tenorio. Who knows, there might be a day that we might be able to watch players like Messi and Nilmar playing in the region, obviously in the 30’s or 40’s.