AGL completes a successful decade

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AGL completes a successful decade
The Arabian Gulf League approved official football for the new season

Dubai - A landmark football season of the UAE top flight gets rolling this weekend

By James Jose

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Published: Thu 14 Sep 2017, 8:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Sep 2017, 12:43 AM

A landmark season of the UAE top flight gets rolling this weekend, with a reputation to keep, along its fledging journey.
It is 10 years since the League turned professional and everyone associated with football in the country truly deserve a pat on the back for making it Asia's best last season. The Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Club Competitions Ranking named the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) as Asia's top League ahead of Korea's K-League, Saudi Pro League, Japanese J-League and the Qatar Stars League.
The accolade hasn't come easy. The League took the giant leap in 2008, but one must not forget the early years when UAE football took its first baby steps back in the day in the 1973-74 season. Those amateur years too have had their part to play in what the League has gone on to become today.
So, for all intents and purposes, the AGL will look to ensure its standing at the very top and stay right there for a second season running.
It has been 124 days since a ball was kicked in anger but that wait is about to end on Friday evening. First up, Emirates and Al Dhafra will get proceedings off to a start with the first match of the season at faraway Ras Al Khaimah.



Emirates vs Al Dhafra, Emirates Club Stadium, 5.30 pm?
Al Jazira vs Ajman, Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, 5.40 pm
Sharjah vs Al Nasr, Sharjah Stadium, 8.30 pm


Shabab Al Ahli Dubai vs Hatta, Rashid Stadium, 5.35 pm
Al Wahda vs Dibba, Al Nahyan Stadium, 5.40 pm
Al Ain vs Al Wasl, Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, 8.30 pm
Ten minutes on, and across in the UAE capital, Al Jazira begin their title defence against promoted Ajman. The night sees Sharjah, the winners of UAE football's first season in 1973-74, host Al Nasr.
Saturday sees the merged Shabab Al Ahli Dubai at home at their former but temporary home Rashid Stadium followed by Al Wahda taking on Dibba. Record champions Al Ain match wits against last year's runners-up Al Wasl, to wrap the first week of action.
For Al Ain, the League presents a shot at redemption, after ending without any piece of silverware, for the first time in years. And after last week, they have been left to pick up the pieces following a heart-breaking and shattering loss to Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, which put the inaugural champions of the AFC Champions League, out of the competition.
The Boss will be looking to set right their tattered reputation, which has taken a dent.
"Of course, we are all unhappy because we worked hard for the Hilal game and earned our place in the quarterfinal. So, we had high hopes. But this is football," Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic said in an emotional note, on twitter.
"But defeats are part of football, we don't like them and we certainly don't ever want to get used to them. So, we have to work hard not to feel like after the Hilal game, any time soon. The League is starting this week, we are playing against Wasl who has a tough squad. So, it will not be easy. We have to leave the Hilal game behind us, we can't change that and we have to move on and look forward. In sport, the only thing that counts is what you do today, not yesterday," he added.
The embattled manager, who is now under increasing pressure, after Al Ain's fall from grace, vowed to return Al Ain to where they belong. "We are Al Ain. We have a great team and the best fans in the country. We want to win titles, that is why I came here and the only way to start towards the League title is with a win," said Mamic.
So, another season rolls along, with hope.

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