Al Ahli’s recent success has generated a lot of publicity and some well-earned praise. With the club working towards a treble, having won both the Arabian Gulf Cup and the President’s Cup (earlier in the week), it may seem like the club is back to its winning days, though the club never had back-to-back title wins.
But the club’s journey is just the beginning, and like many other aspiring Asian clubs wanting to reach global success, will face many challenges.
In many respects, credit of reemergence of the Kinghts, can be credited to Abdulla Saeed Al Naboodah (Chairman of the club) who knew what he needed to do to bring the club back to its glorious days. The need to bring players and staff that can help the team win trophies. Most notable of them all was the conversion of former club defender – Italian Fabio Cannavaro as a consultant/coach of Al Ahli after he announced his retirement from football. It was widely thought that it was another means for the club to expose itself to the global community but doubts remained in terms of its title winning ambitions.
The club did not start on the right foot as Al Ahli’s latest manager, Romanian Cosmin Olariou, was embroiled in a bitter off-pitch mesh between himself and his former club and Al Ahli’s bitter rivals – Al Ain. The UAE Football Association’s arbitration team placed a ban of six months on the Romanian, after he earlier had been fined Dh100,000 ($27,225) and handed a three-game ban, for “showing a lack of commitment” toward his agreement with Al Ain and “violating” it.
Secondly, the only two men that were contributing to the score sheet were the Brazilian duo of Grafite (18) and Ciel (11). Though Al Ahli are currently on top of the table with the highest number of goals scored, the amount of goals scored on them was significantly higher as well. And the most annoying bit for any fan, Al Ahli was/is known as the club, which concedes goals in the dying, minutes.
Nonetheless, Ahlawi’s are eagerly waiting for the club to perform at the Asian level (referring to the Asian Champions League). It was only a few days ago that the club was leading the table in a group where any of its four opponents could qualify granted the results from the final match-day. And it seemed like Al Ahli had a stronger than expected shot at qualifying to the next rounds. Well, it did not turn out the way the Emiratis wanted it to, as Qatar’s Al Sadd beat them by two goals after losing ground to a Grafite opener. The loss has dampened the emotions of the fans as they expected Al Ahli to achieve new heights at the Asian level.
I was hoping for an exciting finish to the Arabian Gulf League this season, just like what we see in the English Premier League and the La Liga. The entertaining aspect of the game for any fan around the world is the continuity of excitement until the last second. But surely, an Ahlawi will brush the statement aside as the club inches closely to lifting the league title. Above all, the players and officials will need to remember that they are not alone on their journey.