Al Ahli just 90 minutes away from the UAE’s first treble

Al Ahli will be written into the ‘record books for eternity’ if they finish campaign with an unprecedented third trophy in the President's Cup against Al Ain, writes Ahmed Rizvi.
Al Ahli are on the brink of a record treble in UAE football if they can beat Al Ain in the President's Cup on Sunday night. Satish Kumar / The National
Al Ahli are on the brink of a record treble in UAE football if they can beat Al Ain in the President's Cup on Sunday night. Satish Kumar / The National

About a month ago, just after Al Ahli had wrapped up the Arabian Gulf League title with a 2-1 win over Al Wasl, assistant manager Catalin Raducan talked about the two options ahead for his team.

To be content with merely having a “good season”, or turning it into a “fantastic” campaign.

Good would mean being pleased with the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) title and the season-opening Super Cup success; fantastic meant adding the Arabian Gulf Cup and the President’s Cup and going down in UAE football annals as the first team to make a clean sweep of the domestic competitions.

Read more: Grafite, Ismail Al Hammadi lead Al Ahli sweep of Arabian Gulf League awards

Relentless in their pursuit of history, manager Cosmin Olaroiu’s men defeated Al Jazira last month to add the Arabian Gulf Cup to their list. Now comes the final frontier – the President’s Cup final against Al Ain on Sunday night.

“The competition is great. The honour is greater.”

These eight words, the tagline on adverts promoting the President’s Cup final, sum up the sentiments in the Ahli camp.

“In life, how many times will you get such an opportunity – to win four titles in a season,” Raducan said. “You can only dream of such moments.

“So merely reaching the final of the President’s Cup is not enough for us. We want to win this title. We have forgotten about the past, those three titles that we have won, and our focus is just on this final, because winning this match would put this team in the record books for eternity.”

Winning tonight would also give Al Ahli a record nine President’s Cup crowns, one more than Sharjah.

A loss tonight, on the other hand, has the potential to sour what has been, without a doubt, one of the most dominant seasons by a team in domestic football. Basheer Saeed, the veteran Ahli defender, is aware of that.

“We are not going to allow the final 90 minutes of our season to spoil the joy of all those previous three titles,” Saeed said. “There is a great responsibility on us to make sure that does not happen.

“So we have forgotten about the past and remain totally focused. We are not content with what we have achieved, because we are like a raging fire that wants to devour everything in front of us.

“In every competition, our target has been the podium, and not the second place, and it will be the same on Sunday evening.”

Indeed, Ahli, this season, have been like an inferno that refuses to abate. As Raducan pointed out, the team lost just once “on the pitch” during their AGL campaign and only two other matches – to Al Dhafra in the League Cup and Al Sadd in the Champions League. And they have played 43 games.

“This is a very special team,” Raducan said. “When I look into the eyes of the Ahli players, I can see the hunger to win every game, every championship. These players never surrender and fight furiously till the end, and they have already proven it through the season.

“So while we have nothing but respect for Al Ain, I am confident they will prove it again in the final. We know Al Ain are at their best this moment, as they have qualified for the quarterfinal of the Champions League, but we have beaten them three times this season and we are pretty confident of doing it a fourth time.”

The Super Cup aside, just 90 minutes, then, stand between Ahli and the UAE’s first treble. A great competition carries an even greater honour for them.

Follow our sports coverage on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: May 17, 2014 04:00 AM


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