Arabian Gulf League 2014/15 team guides: Ajman

Team in flux after four years of stability under Iraqi coach Abdulwahab Abdulqadir, writes Ahmed Rizvi

Boris Kabi, left, of Ajman crosses to a teammate during an Arabian Gulf League match against Al Nasr in Dubai on December 19, 2013. Nasr won 2-1. Lee Hoagland / The National
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Change is rarely smooth, and Ajman, after a summer of challenges, can vouch for that.

Since parting ways with Iraqi coach Abdulwahab Abdulqadir after four relatively successful seasons, which brought the club their first trophy in 30 years, few things have gone according to plan for Ajman.

First, their original choice for replacing Abdulqadir, Frenchman Rene Marsiglia, opted out days before his arrival, due to health concerns. Ajman managed to find a worthy successor in Tunisian Fathi Al Jabal, who spent seven seasons at the same club, Al Fateh, in his previous job and helped the team win the Saudi league title for the first time.

Then, their plan to stage an off-season camp in Germany ran into obstacles. Delays in getting visas meant the team left five days later than originally scheduled. Two of their foreign players, Iraqi defender Ahmed Ibrahim and Boris Kabi, spent a large part of that trip on the treatment table, missing friendly matches.

The two have since recovered, but that is not the end of Ajman’s woes. They have been handed an unenviable start to the schedule. In their first five matches, Al Jabal’s men will face four of the favourites for the title – Al Jazira in the opening round and Al Ain in the third, followed by defending champions Al Ahli and Al Nasr.

Driss Fettouhi, Ajman’s Moroccan midfielder, does not seem worried, though.

“We, as players, do not worry about such things,” he said. “We treat every game with the same importance. So, while we respect all our opponents, we will fight hard and try to beat them. We know we can do it and we showed that in the 2012/13 season, when we got some remarkable results.”

Al Jabal is similarly optimistic.

“There is no such thing as impossible in football,” he said. “In our sport, there are clubs who have the potential and the resources to achieve success, and then there are clubs who are diligent and fight for success.

“Ajman are in this second category. There are a lot of similarities between Ajman and my previous club, especially the spirit within the team, and that is why I am so optimistic.”

FOREIGN PLAYERS

Karim Ziani

The only new foreign players on the team, Ziani boasts French clubs such as Sochaux and Marseille on his resume, and Wolfsburg paid €10 million (Dh47.5m) to bring him to Germany in 2009. Ziani, 32, who has made 62 appearances for the Algeria national team, comes in for Simon Feindouno, and Ajman fans will hope he can work his magic in orange.

Ahmed Ibrahim

The tough-tackling Iraqi central defender played a big part of turning around Ajman’s fortunes in the second half of last season. When he arrived in January, Ajman were at the bottom of the league table with nine points from 16 matches, having conceded 32 goals. In the 10 games he played after his arrival, they conceded 14 goals and won six matches.

Boris Kabi

One of the most prolific strikers in the Arabian Gulf League, Kabi has played a significant part in keeping Ajman afloat in the country’s top division since his return in January 2012. The Ivorian has scored 43 goals in 58 league matches since. He also helped Ajman beat Al Jazira to win the League Cup title in 2013.

Driss Fettouhi

Struggling with injuries at the start of last season, the Moroccan was replaced by Ivorian Bakari Kone in January. He has returned, though, and is looking forward to continuing from where he left off at the end of the 2012/13 season. A livewire in midfield, Fettouhi, 24, will be crucial to Ajman’s success this season.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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