The UAE Pro League has approved the calendar for the first half of the 2021-22 Arabian Gulf League season, which begins next month.
The new campaign, confirmed on Sunday, kicks off on August 19, with the first half – 13 rounds - to conclude on January 7. The Pro League have attempted to stage the highest number of matches at weekends, while also legislating for international breaks. The UAE national team contest the third and final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup from September.
According to a release, the Pro League will also “show flexibility” in support of Al Wahda and Sharjah, who play one another in September in the last 16 of the Asian Champions League.
Champions Al Jazira kick-start their title defence at home to Al Dhafra on August 20, while last year’s runners-up Baniyas host Al Wasl on the same day. Meanwhile, newly promoted Emirates Club welcome Shabab Al Ahli on the opening day, with fellow new boys Al Orooba, who make their debut in the UAE top flight, hosting Al Wahda.
Jazira’s success last season was the Abu Dhabi club’s third UAE championship, and was sealed with a 3-1 victory against Khorfakkan on the final day, in May. The capital side are seeking to become the first team since 2013 to retain the crown.
Jazira’s chances were boosted in late May with confirmation manager Marcel Keizer had agreed to a new two-year contract. The Dutch coach, in his second stint at the club, would not commit his future to Jazira in the immediate aftermath of the title win.
Speaking following the contract extension, Keizer said: “We have an exciting challenge ahead to retain the title next season and continue bringing joy to our fans across Abu Dhabi and the UAE. I promise the fans that we will continue evolving as a team and we will always give it our best in domestic competitions and the Asian Champions League.”