Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum with the winners during the AGL awards. Sharjah won the Best Coach, Best Player and Best Goalkeeper awards. Image Credit: AGL

Dubai: Sharjah’s title-winning coach Abdul Aziz Al Anbari has admitted that the defence of their Arabian Gulf League (AGL) crown will only get tougher next season after his side made a near clean sweep at the end-of-season AGL Awards held at Madinat Jumeirah late on Friday.

Known as ‘The King’, Sharjah helped themselves to a sixth league title following an unbeaten streak of 24 matches and just one loss while collecting 56 points. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai were second on 53 points, while defending champions Al Ain ended down in third with 46.

It was a solid, consistent performance as Al Anbari led from the front inspiring his players to put team before individual brilliance. In the bargain, Al Anbari bagged Best Coach, while Igor Coronado and Adel Al Hossani walked away with the Best Player and Best Goalkeeper prizes respectively.

Right from the start we impressed on the players that if we want to fight against the big ones then we would need to stick together as a family where individual performances would be very little.

- Abdul Aziz Al Anbari | Sharjah coach

“Everything was down to teamwork this season,” Al Anbari said after receiving his award from Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC). “Right from the start we impressed on the players that if we want to fight against the big ones then we would need to stick together as a family where individual performances would be very little. Fortunately, we started our season well right from the overseas training camp till the end of the campaign last Thursday. And now the results are there for all to see.”

Also present on stage were Marwan Bin Galaitha, President, UAE Football Association and Abdullah Nasser Al Junaibi, Chairman of PLC.

“But with that said, things are not going to be any easy from now on,” Al Anbari added. “I think the new season will be a true trial of strength for us as we will have to consider the AFC Champions League (ACL) in addition to all the domestic competitions.”

24games

Sharjah’s unbeaten streak during season

Personally too it was a rare feat as Al Anbari had been a player with Sharjah when they last won the league way back in 1995-96. Sharjah’s lone loss came in the penultimate round against Al Wasl and that was the only blemish on Al Anbari’s record. “Even when we lost, our supporters backed us,” he said. “But the important thing was that all players followed instructions, and that made the difference. In the beginning I didn’t believe we could win, but once we had turned the corner I started believing more and more that a title was possible. 23 years is a long time, but we believe that if we can stick together as a unit next season, we will be able to make it even if we are stretched a bit.

“It will not be easy to stay at the top for sure. And if we do want to defend our title next season then we will need to increase and improve on our work and we also need our local players to raise their game.”

Earlier, Shaikh Mansour unveiled a new AGL trophy design in keeping with the Year of Tolerance. “Our leaders show us the way and this year we want to hail the true spirit of tolerance, love and respect as this shows resilience against all adversity,” Al Junaibi said.

“It is the end of the season, but with it we also renew our pledge towards excellence and bank on the hope of making next season much better than what we’ve had this year.”

AWARDS

■ Golden Ball for Best Emirati Player: Khalfan Mubarak (Al Jazira)
■ Golden Ball for Best Foreign Player: Igor Coronado (Sharjah)
■ Golden Glove for Best Goalkeeper: Adel Al Hossani (Sharjah)
■ Golden Ball for Best Coach: Abdul Aziz Al Anbari (Sharjah)
■ Fans’ Player of the Year: Driss Fattouhi (Dibba)
■ Goal of the Year: Michael Ortega (Bani Yas)
■ Golden Ball for Best Young Player: Ali Saleh (Al Wasl)
■ Club Licensing Award: Al Wasl Football Company