Sparky’s Column

Al Classico

The game between Al Ahli and Al Ain has turned into the UAE's Real Madrid v Barcelona. It is not technically a derby match, as the clubs are from two different cities, but I think the AL CLASSICO title fits it perfectly. The game itself panned out as expected for what is essentially still a pre-season match; little goalmouth action as both teams got to grips with new systems, new coaches and new team mates. The two players that stood out were the goalkeepers as the game ended goalless and went to penalties. The game represented the complete rehabilitation of Majed Nasser, who as well as celebrating a recall to the national team saved the vital penalty as Al Ahli won the trophy. Despite the loss, Khalid Eissa, a new signing for Al Ain, looked solid throughout the game and could be a key addition; he must be delighted to be getting first team football and the recognition his ability deserves.

The UAE League Cup took centre stage this week with Ajman - in the most orange of orange kits - beginning a title defence with a win against Al Nasr.  The first round of the new-look Cup saw Al Ahli slump to a surprise defeat versus Al Dhafra, whilst Luis Milla enjoyed a winning start with Al Jazira. Al Ain made it two defeats out of two, Bani Yas scoring a 3-1 win over their larger Abu Dhabi neighbours. The bigger clubs have the disadvantage of international players leaving the fold for their national team this week but that said only Al Jazira have lived up up to the pre-season billing.

This weekend will see an international tournament in Riyadh with the UAE, Saudi, New Zealand and Trinidad & Tobago competing for the OSN Cup. One of the Trinidad & Tobago players, former Arsenal man Justin Hoyte, has stated in Sport360 that he is looking to swap shirts with Omar Abdulrahman, "their number 10 with the curly-haired afro." The Middlesbrough right-back continued: "He's very good. I'm going to try and get his shirt after the game. That kid's quality and we'll get to see it when we play against him..."  It is true he could be mistaken for a small Felliani both on and off the pitch, but again, as I have stated week after week his reputation is spreading.

It's new logo time for the Arabian Gulf League, who launched it as we get set for the new season. Simple is key for the new look and its launch gives you the feeling that the season is another step closer to the bolder, faster, stronger slogan. You have a week to wait until kick-off in the League, but that time could be used constructively by choosing your fantasy football team - check out for details on how to register.