Dubai: Ittihad Kalba will take on Al Jazira, while Hatta will host Bani Yas in the opening round of the Arabian Gulf Cup as the 2020-21 football season kicks off on Thursday.
The UAE Football Association had scheduled the beginning of the football season in the first week of September, but called for its postponement at the last minute due to the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, following a clearance from relevant authorities, the season is all set to get under way with the Arabian Gulf Cup this weekend followed by the opening round of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) on October 16-17.
No spectators will be allowed into the stadiums for either of the competitions starting this weekend with the relevant authorities and organisers announcing special match day protocol and instructions for all players, clubs, media and partners.
“We are pleased as we head towards the start of a new football season that is by far a totally different time for everyone involved. But it is also an occasion in which we can express our pride and loyalty to our wise leadership who have provided all the tools to combat the Coronavirus pandemic,” UAE Pro League CEO Waleed Al Hosani said before the kick-off of the new season.
“We thank our first line of defence for their sacrifices and efforts to ensure the health and safety of everyone. We also laud the competent authorities for the continuous and fruitful coordination to ensure the return of sporting activity.
“We commend the support of the UAE Football Association and the professional clubs to the UAE Pro League. We are looking forward to an exciting season, but the safety of the players and workers is a priority for us, so we call on everyone to abide by the match day protocol requirements and call on the fans to continue supporting their clubs and players. The fans are an important part of the game, but the current circumstances require playing games behind closed doors to ensure their safety and limit the spread of coronavirus.”
Recently, Al Wahda could not take part in the preliminary rounds of the 2020 AFC Champions League held in Doha after a few of their staff tested positive for coronavirus. However, former champions Al Ain travelled to Qatar for the continental competition along with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and AGL champions Sharjah.
After their return to the UAE, all three clubs continued with their preparations for the new season with organisers going the extra mile to ensure the smooth and effortless start to football.
With the first two matches scheduled for a 6.30pm kick-off, Fujairah will host Ajman at 9pm in the third match on October 8. The next day, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will play host to Al Dhafra, while Al Ain host Khor Fakkan in the early games, while Al Wasl will travel to Abu Dhabi for the late match against Al Wahda.
Arabian Gulf Cup
Kalba v Al Jazira, 6.30pm
Hatta v Bani Yas, 6.30pm
Fujairah v Ajman, 9pm
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai v Al Dhafra, 6.30pm
Al Ain v Khor Fakkan, 6.30pm
Al Wahda v Al Wasl, 9pm