The UAE Football League seems to be one facet of the the recent normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
A source in the Dubai-based al-Nasr Football Club was quoted by AFP as saying that Dia Saba will be “the first Israeli player” to play in the UAE league since its launch in 1974.
The midfielder, 27, who is of Palestinian origins, is on his way to Dubai and will undergo the routine medical tests before officially joining the team, the source affirmed.
Saba is scheduled to sign a three-year contract, earning about $3 million per year, reports noted.
He is currently playing for the Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F and is set to leave the Far East outfit after a year-and-a-half stint.
Saba posted an image on his official Instagram page of himself on a Dubai-bound Emirates flight confirming his transfer from China’s Guangzhou R&F.
Nasr Club’s contracting with Saba comes as Israel and the UAE agreed to formally normalize their relations in mid-August and signed the normalization agreement at the US White House on September 15.
The UAE and Bahrain were the first two Gulf States to announce normalizing ties with Israel, preceded by Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
Israeli Army spokesman for the Arab media Avichay Adraee posted a picture of Saba on his Twitter account.
“Israeli soccer player Dia Saba on his way to Dubai to join the Emirati Al-Nasr team to become the first Israeli player in the Gulf League,” he tweeted.
Emirati tweeters also welcomed the deal.
“Dia Saba, the first Israeli player in the Arab Gulf League, is an excellent step, and we wish him all success and welcome him in the homeland of tolerance,” Fahd al-Hosani wrote.
Saba was born to an Arab-Israeli family in Majd al-Krum and has previously played for Maccabi Netanya in 2014 and Hapoel Be'er Sheva in 2018 before signing for Guangzhou R&F in 2019.
Al-Nasr has welcomed four new players this season. These are Sebastian Tagliabue from Al Wahda, Ryan Mendes from Cape Verde from Sharjah, Abdul Rahman Youssef from Al Dhafra Club, and the 19-year-old Brazilian player, Caique Jesus.