Football, without a doubt, is one of the most popular sports in the UAE. Much of the population, regardless of age, is passionate about the beautiful game. Both locals and expats follow European football leagues and international tournaments religiously. Hence, you’ll find that most sports bars in Dubai and the other emirates are jam-packed on big game nights. The local emerging league, known as the Arabian Gulf League, has grown in popularity over the recent years as local clubs continue to build a loyal fan base.
ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE
Until 2019, the United Arab Emirates Football Association supervised all local league competitions. However, around two years ago, the UAE Pro League (know for sponsorship reasons as the Arabian Gulf League) became independent of the FA to serve the needs of the 14 participating clubs. The aim was to grow the league which would, in turn, bring in new revenue sources.
The UAE Pro League can help clubs attain their goals and increase fan bases in and outside the UAE. It organises the following competitions:
- Arabian Gulf League
- AGL U21
- Arabian Gulf Cup
- Arabian Gulf Super Cup
VISION AND MISSION OF UAE PRO LEAGUE
UAE Pro League has outlined a long term mission and vision focusing on the development of football in the country.
“Leadership in the world of sports professionalism.”
“The UAE Pro League organise and develop football programs and events through a network of professional and strategic partnerships. It is committed to developing a competitive sports environment that is both entertaining and financially independent and promotes the UAE in all areas related to football competition and professionalism.”
As mentioned earlier, 14 teams compete for the Arabian Gulf League title.
- Al Ain
- Al Dhafra
- Al Jazira
- Al Nasr
- Al Wahda
- Al Wasl
- Bani Yas
- Ittihad Kalba
- Shabab AlAhli
ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE HISTORY
The Football League in the UAE started in 1973 and was known as the UAE Football League. However, it took a while for the league to become professional. In 2007, the first team to win the league title was Al Orouba (Sharjah), while the most successful team to date is Al Ain with 13 league titles.
The 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic and no team was declared champion. Similarly, no club faced relegation to the lower division. Shabab AlAhli Dubai Club were sitting at the top of the table with a 6 point lead at the time of cancellation. Hatta and Fujairah were the two clubs in the relegation zone. In 2018/19, Sharjah had won the League title.
Season 2020/21 got underway on 16th October 2020. The longer transfer window proved fruitful as many clubs brought in experienced players such as Matavz, Carlos Eduardo, Gustavo Vagenin, Gaston Suarez and Nicolas Gimenez.
ARABIAN GULF FANTASY LEAGUE
If you watch all football leagues on your phone and frantically check the scores online, running a fantasy league team might interest you. All you have to do is visit the official Arabian Gulf Fantasy League website and create your own team. You can also create a private league with your friends to see who’s footie knowledge will triumph! Don’t forget to check out the scouting reports and stats present on the website to have the right insights before selecting your team.
FIRST DIVISION LEAGUE
Similar to European Leagues, the Arabian Gulf League also has a relegation system. The two clubs at the bottom of the table drop down to the lower tier i.e. the First Division League. Eleven teams compete in the First Division League. They are:
- Al Orooba
- Deba Al Hissin
- Al Hamriya
- Al Taawon
- Al Dhaid
- Al Arabi
NATIONAL LICENSING SYSTEM
In the 2018/19 season, a national licencing system was introduced as per the strategic plan of the UAE Pro League to develop football-based companies. This Asian Football Confederation recommendation involves a national licencing system based on the following six key areas:
- Personnel and Administration
- Marketing and Promotion
All participating clubs have to fulfill the criteria to be granted a licence.
WHERE CAN I BUY ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE TICKETS?
Currently, all matches are played behind closed doors due to the pandemic. However, once the government gives the green light and stadiums start allowing fans back in, you can buy Arabian Gulf League tickets from the official website. Football stadiums in Dubai and across the UAE are visitor friendly.
There are some other regular football tournaments in the UAE which you can also attend.
WHERE CAN I PRACTICE FOOTBALL IN THE UAE?
If you want to arrange a friendly game, you can hire quality football pitches in Dubai at reasonable prices.
Similarly, you can rent football pitches in Sharjah to work on the core skills of the game.
Currently, the UAE National team is in the 74th spot on FIFA’s global rankings. Now that the UAE Pro League is becoming popular, many predict that the national side will also improve over the next few years. Emirati football fans certainly hope that their team can soon emulate the iconic heroes of 1990, who qualified for the World Cup in Italy.
This completes our overview of the Arabian Gulf League. The league is gradually going from strength to strength. The rivalry between teams is on the rise, so you can expect some close and passionate encounters.
If your child loves football and wants to hone their skills, you can consider enrolling him or her in any of the football academies in Dubai.
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