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Malaga fans turn out in numbers to demand Sheikh Al-Thani's departure

An anti-Al-Thani image was paraded around the perimeter of La Rosaleda.
An anti-Al-Thani image was paraded around the perimeter of La Rosaleda. / ÑITO SALAS
  • The protest followed comments from coach Víctor in which he said he and his staff were "angry and disappointed"

  • Around 2,000 fans joined protests ahead of Saturday's match with Almeria

The Malaga fanbase made its message to club president Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani loud and clear on Saturday afternoon. "Now more than ever, Al-Thani out!" was the message chanted most regularly during a protest called by fans' groups outside La Rosaleda stadium ahead of the derby match against Almeria.

Around two thousand supporters joined in the protest which took place around the stadium, starting an hour before kick-off to demand the departure of the sheikh and an end to his management of the club.

'Al-Thani family out', 'White-collar thief', 'Al-Thani, you are the shame of Qatar', 'Complicit directors' and 'Stop hiding' were all slogans paraded around the perimeter of the stadium on banners, alongside an image of the sheikh with a prohibition cross over his face.

There was a substantial police presence but the protest was entirely peaceful.

Al-Thani wasn't the only target for the fans' ire, however. Joaquín Jofre, a lawyer who is considered by many to be the unofficial general manager, and sporting director, José Luis Pérez Caminero, were also targeted by the fans as they passed the entrance to the directors' box and VIP area.

The sheikh, as well as the club's directors, have attracted strong criticism most recently as a result of their role, and subsequent silence, over the serious sporting crisis which is developing at the club following a disastrous summer transfer window.

Star summer signing Shiji Ozakazi had to be released on transfer deadline day as the club was unable to register him having surpassed the wage cap limit. Neither could new signing José Rodríguez and academy products Iván and Álex Mula be registered but they will train with the squad, unable to play in a competitive match until January at the earliest.

To compound the misery, on Saturday neither Lorenzo González nor Mohamed Benkhemassa could play because the paperwork for their signings was not completed in time.

Discontent among the fanbase is much more in evidence, but the condemnation of the sheikh has not so far been unanimous. The number of those participating in the protest was far inferior to those who attended the match and there were also moments when fans were whistled for not participating in the protest, but watching it from the sidelines.

Saturday's protest against the Al-Thanis was the third large-scale gathering in the last two years. This was the largest, though it did have the advantage of taking place on a matchday.

Criticism from the coach too

The criticism has not only come from the fans, however. In his pre-match press conference, coach Víctor Sánchez del Amo said that the club's transfer activities had "not met expectations".

"When we [Víctor and his coaching staff] met with Jofre and Caminero to talk about renewing our contracts, we were very excited and that's why we decided to stay. But when the window closed, we all felt the same way: angry and disappointed," he told journalists.

However, he was keen not to make excuses: "Results could have been different but I cannot fault the attitude of the players or staff. We have to stay focused and learn to adapt to the situation we're now in."