Emirati super-striker saluted as Chapecoense tributes pour in

Emirati super-striker saluted as Chapecoense tributes pour in
4 min read
05 Dec, 2016
Blog: Former Middle Eastern club players were among those killed in the Colombia plane crash, while an Emirati super hat-trick striker is hot on the heels of "Asia's best player".
Solidarity towards families of Chapecoense players spread across the Middle East [Getty]
Sports fans the word over have this week been in shock after the plane crash in Colombia in which 71 people died, including 19 players from Brazilian team Chapecoense.

Gestures of solidarity flooded the internet as thousands looked to support the players' families, the city of Chapecoense and the club. The Middle East did not stay indifferent. From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, from the Palestinian League to Iraq, teams and players shared their respect and condolences for the Brazilians' loss.

In the UAE and Qatar, the situation was even more emotional than elsewhere in the region, as Chapecoense's coach, Luiz Carlos Saroli, also known as Caio Junior, worked in both countries. In Qatar he coached Al-Gharafa with great success, and in the UAE he worked at Al-Jazira and Al-Shabab.

Other players who had played for Middle Eastern teams, including Rangel and Felipe Machado, were also on the doomed flight.

The tragedy rocked the football world. In these times, the international language of football are the only words that can be spoken.

Asian 'Player of the Year' is Arab

On Thursday, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) held its annual awards ceremony, at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

As expected (and as required), Omar "Amoory" Abdulrahman was crowned the Best Player in Asia for 2016. Amoory dedicated his prize to the people of the Emirates, but insisted "this award doesn't make up for losing the Champions League. Only winning the Asian Champions League next year will make up for that".

There is no doubt that 2016 was Amoory's best of his career so far - individually speaking, at least - but losing the local title, the local cup and the continental title cast a shadow over the award.

Of 12 prizes that were handed out that evening, only his was given to a Middle Eastern representative.

That's a huge compliment for Amoory, but a serious wake-up call for the rest of the Middle Eastern football scene.

Local leagues: goals and progress 

On Friday night, Saudi Arabia reopened the race for the Dawry Jameel league title.

Ittihad Jeddah enjoyed an electric return from injury of Egyptian star Mahmoud Kaharaba.

The striker had scored against Quadisiya in a 3-0 victory on Saturday and continued his run of form with an ecstatic solo effort after just one minute against El-Ettifaq on Friday.

Kaharaba celebrated with Ittihad's fans, which earned him both a standing ovation from the whole stadium and a yellow card. The Tigers won 4-1, to close the gap on league leaders Al-Hilal to two points. That one's going to be a game and a half in Saudi Arabia!

In the Emirates, Al-Jazira striker and UAE international Ali Mabkhout led his club in a goleada against Al-Shabab. Al-Jazira won 7-3, when Mabkhout himself scored four goals (a super hat-trick), had one assist for a goal - but missed a penalty.

Al-Jazira moved to top of the UAE table with the victory, while Al-Wasl lost to Al-Ain. Mabkhout is on fire, with 14 league goals since the start of the season already. Hot stuff as the Gulf temperatures cool for winter.

Sunday afternoon's chilly weather set the perfect atmosphere for the famous Beirut derby between Nejmeh and Ahed. A meeting between these two, representing different sides of the capital city, always sparks the interest. Nejmeh have in the past been supported by the Hariri family, while Ahed, which plays in the Dahia quarter, is identified with Beirut's Shia population.

But the match failed to meet expectations. Nejmeh's goalkeeper, Ahmad Taktouk, put up an excellent display, stopping Ahed's players and earning his money. The match ended with a 0-0 tie, benefitting only the third team of the city - reigning champions Safa - who celebrated their ascendancy to first place in the league. They now have 18 points, just one more than Ahed.

A global tragedy, an Arab player crowned the best in Asia and exciting developments in local leagues across the region. Another exciting week in Middle Eastern football.

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East.

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