Arabian Gulf League season delay could spell good news for UAE national team

Pausing league play for second successive mid-season Gulf Cup of Nations no longer a worry

UAE head coach Mahdi Ali, centre, runs a training session during the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. Courtesy UAE FA
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DUBAI // The postponement of the Arabian Gulf League kick off from August 19 to the middle of next month may potentially cause havoc with the preseason preparations of some clubs, not to mention the UAE national team’s, but, privately, those at the Football Association are likely to believe they have been delivered an unexpected slice of good fortune.

The Pro League Committee (PLC) are expected to announce soon that the start of the season will be delayed because of the Kuwaiti Football Association's decision on Monday to postpone the Gulf Cup of Nations by up to a year as they work on upgrading their stadiums to host the regional tournament.

With the UAE preparing to resume their campaign for 2018 World Cup qualifying next month, the distraction of a second successive mid-season Gulf Cup is now no longer a concern, something that should please the national team management.

UAE coach Mahdi Ali, usually an outspoken critic of scheduling in the domestic game and whose squad will convene at the end of the month for a 2018 World Cup qualifying double-header against Malaysia in Abu Dhabi on September 3 and Palestine five days later, did not respond to several requests for comment on Tuesday.

But any disappointment at a lack of match practice for his players will be tempered by the knowledge they are less likely to pick up early-season injuries and, in the case of star midfielder Omar Abdulrahman, it gives him the chance to recover fully from a knock that forced him to hobble off from Al Ain's 4-0 friendly defeat against English Championship club Hull City.

When contacted yesterday by The National, an official at the FA would only say that the change to the schedule was a matter for the Arabian Gulf League and the PLC.

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