- Spanish football superstar is unveiled to a jubilant crowd before Emirates Club draw with Ajman Club in thrilling 4-4 match
- Emirates Club get first points of the ADNOC Pro League season as fans revel in carnival atmosphere
Football legend Andrés Iniesta scored a penalty and assisted another goal in a stellar performance on his home debut at Emirates Club in Ras Al Khaimah, after receiving a rousing reception from a packed crowd there to cheer him and his team-mates on to a thrilling 4-4 draw with Ajman Club.
A quick start to the match saw the Falcons of Ras Al Khaimah score early through a header from Brazilian forward Lithierry Silva Neves from an inch-perfect Iniesta free-kick before Ajman equalized via an Ali Saleh header before Moroccan Walid Azaro put the visitors in front. Ajman scored a third goal to make it 3-1 at half-time.
The second half saw a stronger performance by Emirates Club, as the home side reduced the deficit through Ismail Al Hammadi before an equalizer from Cameroonian player Franck Kom had the crowd in raptures. At the end of the match, Emirates Club earned a penalty, which was duly dispatched into the back of the net by Iniesta before further drama saw Ajman also win an added time penalty, which was scored by Ali Mudon to end the match at 4-4.
The match took place amid a carnival-like atmosphere, as Ras Al Khaimah’s football fans turned out in numbers to cheer the team and welcome the World Cup winner and former Barcelona F.C. hero, who played the full 90 minutes of the match.
Food trucks, pre-match entertainment in a dedicated fan zone and a grand unveiling of Iniesta added to the anticipation of the match, which was the first for the club at home in the ADNOC Pro League since its promotion last season.
Youssef Al Batran, Chairman of Emirates Club, said: “The entertainment and match itself made this a great spectacle of sport for Ras Al Khaimah and I want to thank the fans for turning out and generating such an incredible atmosphere. I hope to see ongoing support for the club as we look forward to what we hope will be a great season.”
Andrés Iniesta said: “The welcome from the supporters in Ras Al Khaimah was moving and I thank everyone who came to support the team. I’m still new to Emirates Club but, from what I’ve witnessed so far, this is a club moving in the right direction and Ras Al Khaimah is a place with the capability to match its ambition. I believe this is the start of a successful journey and I look forward to a successful season with the team.”
Ras Al Khaimah s growing its appeal as a destination for sport, with multiple international events taking place in the Emirate each year. February sees the world’s professional golfers descend on Al Hamra Golf Club for the DP World Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship, while elite athletes turn out in numbers in the same month for the RAK Half Marathon, one of the fastest half-marathons in the world. Internationally recognized cyclists also participate in two stages of the UAE Tour in February, taking in many of the Emirate’s key attractions, such as Jebel Jais and Al Marjan Island.
Later this year, Ras Al Khaimah will also host the biennial Minifootball World Cup, which will see 32 nations from around the world compete in a 6-a-side format to be crowned world champions.