Arabian Gulf League managers have big holes to fill during Arabian Gulf Cup

Fringe players will get opportunity to shine for Baniyas, Al Ain and Cup holders Al Ahli while the league’s biggest stars are away on international duty, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Holders Al Ahli will be without the bulk of their first team as five players will be on national team duty, and two more are injured. Ashraf Al Amra / Al Ittihad
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The Arabian Gulf Cup has always been perceived as the poor cousin to UAE football’s top tier. The league’s biggest stars are away on international duty and the fans noticeably apathetic.

Many in the past have questioned the worth of the tournament, but after the frenetic start to the league, with five rounds of matches inside 21 days with some surprising results, a few of the coaches could be looking forward to the Arabian Gulf Cup.

Baniyas’ Luis Garcia is one of them. Things have clearly not gone according to plan for the Spaniard with only three points from five matches, and the club’s efforts to strengthen the squad in the late hours of the transfer window is in limbo.

Mohammed Nasser and Saad Suroor cannot don the club’s jersey yet. They might even have to wait until January to start playing again.

Their registration process was not completed within the original deadline, but in the two-hour extension allowed by the UAE Football Association’s committee that monitors player status and ­transfers. The problem is that the notification about the extended deadline was sent out at 1am on October 3, an hour after the closure of the transfer window and the Football Association president, Yousuf Al Serkal, is not convinced about the legality of that decision.

That has caused those two transfers and the registration of Hugo Viana with Al Wasl to be frozen as the FA seek Fifa’s opinion.

That leaves Garcia in probably a more difficult situation than he already was since Carlos Munoz has moved to Al Ahli.

He will also be missing Amer Abdulrahman, Habboush Saleh and Ahmed Ali for tomorrow night’s visit to Sharjah as the trio are on national duty.

Garcia will then have to look into his reserves and find solutions, and, like Jose Peseiro has shown at Al Wahda, that might not be such a bad idea. There could be more than a few players putting their hands up.

Missing as many as 13 players, including Mirko Vucinic and Jonathan Pitroipa, the Al Jazira coach Eric Gerets is also looking forward to this “great opportunity” to discover the true level of his other players and find a few hidden gems.

Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic will also have more than a few holes to fill, with an injured Omar Abdulrahman out of action for three weeks and seven more of his first choice players in Mahdi Ali’s UAE squad for the two friendly matches against Australia and Uzbekistan.

Five Al Ahli players are also part of the UAE team, while defenders Walid Abbas and Essa Ahmed are out because of injuries. That certainly means a difficult start to their defence of the trophy, especially since they travel to league leaders Al Wahda.

Off to a stuttering start in the AGL, Ahli fans could be dreading this trip with the bulk of their first team missing.

But then, their Olympic team players like Waleed Ambar, Waleed Hussain and Mohammed Darwish could be relishing this opportunity to shine, if given a chance.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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