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Uri Levy

Brotherhood of Amman: This week in Middle East football

Al-Faisaly won the Jordanian Pro League after a tumultuous season [JordanFA]

Date of publication: 9 May, 2017

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Blog: Al-Faisaly won the Jordanian Pro League this weekend, as Bahrain's giants crumbled and Al-Hilal took a victory lap in Riyadh, reports Uri Levy.

In the past month the Jordanian league has been on fire, as three teams closed in on the championship title, while four teams were at risk of relegation - with all options open until the very final whistle.  

On top, Al-Jazeera, Al-Faisaly and Al-Wehdat duked it out for the title, while, propping up the table, That Ras, Al-Buqa'a, Al-Sareeh and Sahab fought for their lives at Dauri al-Manaseer.

Al-Wehdat - the reigning champions from the Palestinian refugee camp near Amman - lost their chance to keep hold of the title just last week, while the other two clubs in the capital honed in on the coveted number one spot.

Al-Jazeera, who led the league all season, played Al-Ahli in Zarqa, while Al-Faisaly, the royal family's favourite club who haven't won the title in years, hosted the lowest-ranked Sahab squad.

The Blue Eagles of Faisaly needed to defeat the minnows from Irbid by more than two goals, all while hoping Jazeera would lose points or win by only one goal.

Sahab, fighting relegation, desperately needed to defeat Faisaly at the Amman International Stadium. But 20 minutes after kick off it was clear that wasn't going to happen.

Al-Faisaly were 2-0 up by halftime, with goals from Polish forward Lukasz Simon and his Libyan strike partner Akram Zuway.

On the other side of the city, meanwhile, Al-Jazeera couldn't get even one shot in on goal in the first 45 minutes against Al-Ahli.

At the same time, Al-Buqa'a was winning at Shabab Al-Ordon and That Ras had taken a lead over Al-Sareeh.

As the afternoon went on, Zuway secured the title for Al-Faisaly with a second goal and an assist completing a famous 4-0 victory, condemning Sahab to relegation.

That Ras and Al-Buqa'a both succeeded in their assignments, easily winning their games and escaping the drop zone.

Al-Sareeh joined Sahab in relegation, as all eyes turned to Zarqa.

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Al-Jazeera's Syrian star striker Mardik Mardikian failed to produce any decisive football, a victim of the pressure on the day. A red card for one of the bench signalled the end of Al-Jazeera's title hopes, finishing 0-0, and the final whistle sparked thecelebrations in Amman.

It is the first championship win for Al-Faisaly since 2012, and wrapped up a crazy season in Jordanian football. The players in celeste shirts ran towards their fans, ignoring the abnormal number of soldiers lining the perimeter of the pitch, and celebrated with the traditional Jordanian Kufiyahs.

It was one of the best seasons in years in Jordan, with 295 goals scored in 132 matches - an average of 2.23 goals per game - an attractive league to follow.


Empires are falling (slowly)

For years, Muharraq Club has been the biggest club in Bahrain. 

The club, founded in 1928, has won 33 Bahraini league titles, 32 Bahraini cup titles, numerous super cups, league cups, one Gulf Club Championship and a lucrative AFC Cup in 2008. But this season, despite being a favourite in every competition, the club has shockingly failed to win a single title.

On Saturday, the Reds played Al-Hidd at Stad Al-Bahrayn Al-Watani, in their last chance to catch league leaders Malkiya.

Despite coming back twice, Muharraq couldn't seal the game, and lost 3-2. The result allowed Malkiya, a team from a tiny island (pop. 15,000) in the Gulf of Bahrain, to celebrate their first ever championship title. While a true Cinderella story takes the silverware to the small village, the empire of Muharraq is finishing the season without a title for the first time since 2014.

Is it the beginning of the end for Muharraq, or just a blip in their record?

Riyadh is blue. Deep blue

After securing the title last week, Saudi side Al-Hilal hammered city rivals Al-Nassr in a fierce Riyadh derby.

And what an inauguration for the new champions it was. Goals from Captain Nawaf Al-Abid, Brazilian starlet Carlos Eduardo and a hat-trick by Syrian sensation Omar Khribin concluded the season for Ramon Diaz's side with huge success.

Al-Nassr managed to finish third in the league, but not even Marin Tomasov's goal could cheer up the fans after this humiliation by their arch-rivals.

It was the first title in five years for the Hilal's Blues, who celebrated in style in front of the home crowd, along with a show of Hussein Al-Jesmi performing the club's famous song Thak Al-Mudraj.

Guess who's back

On Sunday afternoon, shocking news came out from the Emirates.

It wasn't Edgardo Bauza, the ex-Argentina coach, who has been signed as the UAE national team coach, who caught the headlines, but another Argentine football figure.

It was none other than Diego Armando Maradona, who announced he has signed with second division club Fujairah, as their new coach. Maradona worked in the country five years ago, but was fired by Al-Wasl after an unsuccessful term. Despite being a near-divine footballer in the past, his coaching career has never taken off, either at club or national level, and it is believed that his comeback to the coaching role is mainly an advertising move - a favour for one of the club's owners - or due to debts he has allegedly been racking up in recent years.

Now the Argentinean, once a world leader playing for Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli, will try to help Fujeirah to win promotion to the Arabian Gulf League. Suerte dios!

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here

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