Al Shabab Fans during a game in one of their better days. Was not even close to this last night.
Al Shabab Fans during a game in one of their better days. Was not even close to this last night.

In terms of overall entertainment, when style, substance and crowd compete with each other, only one would win. But when they collaborate with each other, the result is stunning.

The bold new look of the 2012/2013 UAE Pro League Season was a visual achievement. The first few games of the Etisalat Cup were played last night turned out to be very entertaining.

Foreign imports performed in their winning debuts. It included the two scorers for Dubai Club – Porta and Simon Feindouno. Al Wasl’s three out of four introductions managed to get on the scoring sheet including last minute acquisition – Lazio’s Uruguayan hitman – Emiliano Alfaro who had a brace. While Egyptian playmaker Shikabala captivated the crowd with some dazzling skills all the while providing two assists in his debut for Al Wasl. He wasn’t shy from branding a shirt that shed some light into the recent turmoil in the region. And Chilean Luis Jimenez managed to score in the first minute of the game for Al Ahli while his South American counterpart, Brazilian Ciel managed to equalize with 10 minutes remaining.

Watching the latter bout between Al Ahli and Al Shabab – the two neighbors who are only separated by a distance of 2 km, one could say that it could have been a game in the making. And it was. Both teams exhibited some great movements around the ball. There was a missed penalty, two red cards shown and a reduced display of an all time UAE league norm – time wasting, acting, diving (whatever you want to call it).

The only element that was missing was that of one which drives a football game. To a certain extent at the least. The crowd. 75% of the stadium was empty. That’s a gigantic percentage.

As been the case in the past seasons, it seems like the UAE Pro league had not done much in terms of bringing in the crowd and filling up the stadiums. It would be naïve to say that the committee has not yet recognized the potential in targeting the expat diaspora.

It is just a matter of when and how if not why. Till then we can conclude that in this season, style and substance will just not be enough considering the ambitions it has set itself to achieve.

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