Al Ain: On Wednesday, Al Jazira get the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup underway with the opening match against Auckland City to become the third Emirati club to feature in the competition after Al Ahli in 2009 and Al Wahda in 2010.
The Abu Dhabi club cruised to last season’s domestic league title with an impressive 11 points’ margin to earn their place as the host nation’s representatives.
Al Jazira, Arabic for ‘the Island’, are the oldest surviving club in Abu Dhabi and were founded in 1974 to represent the UAE’s island capital.
Since their establishment, Al Jazira have won two league titles, three President Cups and one league cup title, all of which came in the past decade.
Several international stars have donned the colours of Al Jazira over the years, the 1995 FIFA World Player of The Year George Weah captained the club between 2001 and 2003.
The Liberian is without doubt the biggest name on a list that includes names such as Mirko Vucinic, Ricardo Oliviera and Lassana Diarra.
Al Jazira boast one of the top academies in the country, and in Ali Mabkhout (pictured above), they have a gem that showcases the quality of their youth set up.
The 2015 AFC Asian Cup top goal scorer is the most prolific Emirati goalscorer in the past 20 years.
Last season, he registered an all-time record of netting 33 goals in one league season and the 27-year-old continues to be the focal point in attack for both club and country.
Aside from Mabkhout, coach Henk ten Cate possesses a squad glittered with talent across the field.
UAE international goalkeeper Ali Khaseif is the club captain while his national teammates Mohamed Fawzi and Fares Juma lead the rearguard.
Veteran playmaker Mbark Boussoufa is one of the stars of the Morocco side that won qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and he has been a key performer at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium over the past two years.
Alongside him lines up last season’s UAE Young Player of The Year Khalfan Mubarak and Brazilian winger Romarinho to create a robust attacking unit that promises lots of goals and entertaining football.
Despite romping to league success last season, ‘the Pride of Abu Dhabi’ have not got off to a good start in their title defence.
A solitary win in their first six games saw them stutter near the bottom end of the table, but they have since turned things around and are currently on a five-game unbeaten run which lifted them up to fourth in the table, one matchweek before the end of the first half of the competition.
Ten Cate will be hoping his side continue their positive run into the FIFA Club World Cup as they face Auckland City in the competition opener on Wednesday.
Photos: Lagardère Sports