Balls and brawls: This week in Middle East football

Balls and brawls: This week in Middle East football
Blog: A return to club football after the international break brings Al-Ahli's first trophy of the season, and chaos in Amman, writes Uri Levy.
4 min read
03 Apr, 2017
Omar al-Somah has scored 100 goals in 90 games [al-Ahli FC]

After the intense international break for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Asian Cup qualifications, Middle Eastern fans were this weekend treated to enjoyed the return of club football.

On Saturday, Al-Ahli Dubai won the Emirati League Cup with a convincing 2-0 victory over Al-Shabab Al-Arabi.

Makhete Diop produced a superb performance and scored a brace for Al-Fursan - "the knights". Al-Ahli got off the mark just five minutes into the match when Everton Ribeiro found the Senegalese striker in the box to give the team the lead.

All the Emirati national players who were part of the disappointing internatioal matches the previous weekend looked sharp and confident.

All except Ahmed Khalil. The 2015 Asian Player of the Year is having a rough time after rumors about his desire to leave the club, and he failed to up his game - or to be dominant in any form at all.

Abdoulaziz Sanqour, meanwhile, one of the main targets of the local press after the UAE's poor display at the World Cup qualifiers, assisted Diop with his second goal. The improving team from Dubai is celebrating its first trophy of the season. Mabrouk.

Fools' Day brawl

Saturday was April Fool's Day, and in Jordan a survival battle between That Ras and Sahab turned into a real chaotic fools' brawl.

With That Ras leading 2-0, Sahab's Abu Jaddou was sent off - and then the mess started. Sahab fans began to throw everything they could find on to the pitch, including chairs and shoes. A few of the club's officials began to chase the referee, who managed to escape.

Sahab's players got involved too, while the whole scene was only drawn to an end thanks to the intervention of the police and soldiers present at the King Abdullah Stadium in Amman.

That Ras, ranked 11th before the game, end the weekend in 10th. Both teams are still in danger of relegation, and will fight Al-Buqaa and Al-Sareeh until the final whistle blows on the season. The bottom of the table in Jordan is boiling.

Be'er Sheva on top

In Be'er Sheva, Israel, Hapoel hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv for the match of the season, with both teams leading the table, while The Camels of Be-er Sheva just three points ahead. 

With the usual fantastic atmosphere at Terner Stadium, the game was an intense and pacey thriller. Be'er Sheva were awarded a penalty after 22 minutes, which Ben Sahar converted.

Maharan Radi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and Be'er Sheva's former Maccabi Tel Aviv star, was dominant against his old team.

Radi won three consecutive championship titles with Maccabi, but last year left the club after having problems with fans and falling out of the first team. His transfer had an immediate impact, as he was crucial in Be'er Sheva's first title in 40 years.

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The race for this year's title is not yet finished in the Israeli Premier League, but if Be'er Sheva do manage to emerge victorious, Radi will be celebrating five consecutive championships. There are still eight more games in the season.

Syria is waiting for al-Somah

Finally, in Saudi Arabia, Syrian powerhouse Omar al-Somah has reached a remarkable landmark for Al-Ahli Jeddah.

The striker scored a brace and reached 100 goals for Al-Khodraa, in a 6-0 King's Cup victory against Wajj on Sunday, in his 90th match for his club.

Just read that stat again: 100 goals in 90 matches. In three seasons in Saudi Arabia, al-Somah has become the region's best striker by far, attracting international interest - including attempts by the Saudi FA to naturalise him as a citizen.

As previouly mentioned in these pages, al-Somah hasn't played for the Syrian national team since he expressed his support for the rebels back in 2012. During Syria's emotional campaign in the World Cup qualifications and the return of his ex-teammate, Firas Al-Khatib, to the squad, they were many voices who called on al-Somah to let go of the past and to return to the national squad.

Al-Somah, who has been linked with potential moves to Middlesborough in the English Premier League and Turkish giants Galatasaray, remains silent on the issue.

His return to the country of his birth would give Syria  a mega-boost in their World Cup aspirations, and millions of Syrians across the world would say "Alhamdulillah" - but a move back to Assad's Syria may yet prove too high a price.

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

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