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Wednesday, July 17 2019 @ 10:43 pm ACST

Middle East Clubs Looking Forward

Middle East
Mid-July marks the point furthest away from the footy season – the middle of the off-season. Recovery from the previous season is largely complete and the first stirrings of the new pre-season are evident. Post-mortems on the previous season are done.

It is time to be looking forward to a new season.

Each team would be quietly going through the mental exercises of what needs to be done for the new season. One thing that remains eternally true is that new seasons bring new hope, new expectations and new opportunities. Each team is at a different stage in their journey and making plans for the next step.


THE REIGNING CHAMPIONS

The Multiplex Bulls broke through for their maiden premiership last season. In the process, they also brought an end to the great era of the Dubai Dragons. After years of being the bridesmaid, the Bulls became the glowing bride.

However, one premiership won’t be enough. The Bulls will not be content to hand the premiership cup back to any club immediately. An opportunity beckons to build their own dynasty – take the chapter written back in March and add more.

The club will look at personnel – the usual ins and outs of off-seasons – and assess what they have lost and what they have gained. They will also look at the areas where other teams found weakness and address those.

The premiership presented the Bulls with one of the greatest possible marketing opportunities. Success makes it easier to sell the club to prospective players, fans, kids who might be the club’s longer term future and possible sponsorship opportunities. It will be a big off-season for the club. With a view to another big season on the field come October.

THE VANQUISHED

The Dubai Dragons will not be happy to have lost their premiership streak. No amount of premierships is enough when you hurl your body into contests without fear each match and expect maximum reward for the effort. There will have been deep growling and grumbling sounds from within the Dragon’s den since March, and more will follow.

Like all clubs, the Dragons will reassess their playing lists – the ins, the outs, the strengths, the weaknesses. They will also have done some homework on the Bulls, seeing how they can match up better with the reigning premiers.

Above all, that loss stung. The Dragons will use that hurt as motivation to reclaim what they will believe should be theirs. They would rather the 2018/19 season simply be a small blip on their footy radar and all services will return to normal for 2019/20.

THE IMPROVERS

The Abu Dhabi Falcons have suffered from the league being a four-team competition where results seem to dictate a pecking order. They don’t get a chance to string a few wins together against lower opposition as bigger leagues can. It means their improvement is masked by the deeds of two stronger teams.

However, the Falcons have been highly competitive over the past couple of seasons. They have been well placed in many matches, but just faltered at the wrong time, or ran out of steam.

Apart from the obvious need to review player lists, the club will also look at fitness as a key – how to run out games better – and mental toughness. If they can secure a couple of key players and build a stronger fitness base, they will improve. Of course, skill plays a massive role and the club is sure to focus on the “little things” to gain improvement. Kicking, handpassing, marking and positioning are key, but so are the “one percenter” acts like shepherding, switching play, tap ons, dummy running…all of the small things that can make the difference of one or two goals.

For the Falcons, that might be all the scoreboard improvement they need.

THE BUILDERS

The Dubai Dingoes have had a tough time in recent years and it has manifested itself on the scoreboard. As with previous off-seasons, the Dingoes are looking at what is needed to build a team. Players are a big part of that, and they are sure to have been chatting to prospective players.

But they will also acknowledge that to improve on-field, their playing personnel needs to lead rather than chase. Instead of having a defensive mindset along the lines of what needs to be done to stop a team, they can develop an attacking strategy that might throw the competitors a curve ball or two. Get the opponents reacting to them rather than the other way around.

That is a mental thing that will also require the tactical nouse to formulate plane and the players to enact them.

But it’s only July and there is plenty of time to work on those aspects before the pressure of match day arrives again.

THE OTHERS

The Doha Kangaroos left the cryptic message on their Facebook page “see you soon”. It might well be a social thing, but they would be absolutely hoping it means more than that. Whether or not they return this season is either unknown or awaiting announcement, but certainly the club will want to be involved again in some way.

The Bahrain Suns hosted last year’s pre-season cup. They may or may not be ready for full involvement – pending numbers – but they will once again want at least a pre-season cup and if they can get more, so much the better.

The Muscat Magpies seem to be receding further and further from the footy scene. It is hard to see them with a fully competitive team in upcoming years, but having some involvement will keep the flame flickering.

Training will ramp up in coming weeks and months for all teams, as will news on team progress. But one thing is certain – behind the scenes there is much to talk about and prepare, and that would certainly be happening now.


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