Dubai: The ugly head of racism marred Sharjah’s top-of-the-table win over Al Nasr in Round Six of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL), late on Friday.
Influential playmaker Igor Coronado converted from the penalty spot on either side of half-time to ensure the defending champions keep their position at the top of the standings with a maximum 18 points after six matches. It was Al Nasr who came close to breaking the deadlock in the 15th minute, when Ryan Mendes’ pass found Sebastian Tagliabue, but Salem Sultan made a goal-line save to deny the Argentine-turned-Emirati striker.
Few minutes later, Sharjah were awarded a penalty after Welliton Soares was brought down inside the box. Coronado stepped up and converted past Al Nasr goalkeeper Ahmad Shambih to put the King 1-0 up. It was then that things took a turn for the worse as Tagliabue allegedly racially taunted Soares for simulation to force the spot kick. The 34-year-old Brazilian, who was the top scorer for two seasons (2009 and 2010) during his stay with Spartak Moscow in the Russian Premier League, walked away from the field in tears even as his teammates cajoled him into staying.
The referee brought the situation under control with yellow cards to both players. With the heat of the match rising, Sharjah were almost reduced to 10 when Caio Lucas was shown a red card seven minutes before the break. However, the referee revised his decision after reviewing the VAR and changed it to a yellow card.
Going in for the break with a 1-0 lead, Sharjah nearly got a second goal but Coronado’s free-kick rattled the woodwork and bounced away to safety. Al Nasr finally found the back of the net two minutes before the hour mark after a quick exchange of passes inside the box saw Diaa Saba fire in a powerful effort to the bottom corner.
Sharjah got a second goal in the 78th minute following a handball against Tariq Ali inside the area, and once again Coronado made no mistake from the spot for the home team.
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Soares and his teammates celebrated the goal in style as they came together and closed their ears with their hands while holding their breath all at the same time signifying their distaste for the alleged earlier slur from Tagliabue.
Sharjah have yet to decide whether they will take up the matter with the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) with an official from the club indicating that the players’ response to the jibe was good enough.
“We have never ever had such an incident during our football league. So this is something new and I am glad that the players took it upon themselves to voice their displeasure with what the Al Nasr player had uttered to Welliton,” an official from Sharjah Club told Gulf News.
“Things happen at the spur of the moment during matches, and a senior like Tagliabue who is now with an Emirati passport should realise the effect of such incidents on the next generation of footballers who are watching our league. I am confident such a situation will not repeat itself in the future.”
In other matches, Al Ain put their campaign back on track with a 2-1 away win at Al Wasl, while Kalba stunned Bani Yas 2-0 in Abu Dhabi and Fujairah secured a solitary-goal win to keep Hatta at the bottom of the standings with just one point.
Al Wasl 1 Al Ain 2
Bani Yas 0 Kalba 2
Fujairah 1 Hatta 0
Sharjah 2 Al Nasr 1