Ivan Jovanovic sacked as UAE manager before taking charge of a game

Serbian was offered a six-month contract in December but all qualifiers have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 05 JANUARY 2020. Practise of the UAE National Footbal team at the UAE Football Association HQ in Al Khawaneej. Coach Ivan Jovanovic. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: John McAuley. Section: Sport.
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The UAE Football Association have begun their search for a fifth manager in three years after deciding to dispense with Ivan Jovanovic – even though he had not taken charge of the first team for a match.

The Football Association announced the news on their social media accounts on Monday, thanking the Serbian for his albeit-brief time spent in the role.

Jovanovic, 57, was appointed as Bert van Marwijk’s successor in December and tasked with guiding the national team through to the third round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup. His tenure lasted 106 days.

The FA, whose new national-team committee recommended the former Al Nasr manager’s contract be terminated, will commence the hunt for a replacement immediately.

The FA statement read: “The UAE Football Association terminated the contract of Ivan Jovanovic and his team of assistants, thanking him for his efforts with the national team [and] wishing him success in his next steps, praising his good cooperation and sincerity throughout his tenure.

“The decision was made based on the recommendation of the Football Association's National Teams and Technical Affairs Committee, headed by Yousef Hussain Al Sahlawi, the second vice-president of the federation and head of committee.

“The board of the Football Association delegated the National Teams and Technical Affairs Committee to sign with a new technical staff to lead the team during the coming period.”

Handed a six-month contract on December 22, Jovanovic said upon his presentation to the media the following week that he planned to lift the UAE out of a “crisis” and that qualification for the next round represented the “first and only target I have in my mind”.

However, the final two rounds of qualifiers, scheduled for last month and June, were postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Fourth in Group G, the UAE were originally expected to host Malaysia in Dubai on March 26 and then face Indonesia away five days later, with their remaining two qualifiers – at home to Thailand and Vietnam – coming on June 5 and 9.

The UAE sit five points off leaders Vietnam, although they have played a game less than their rivals. As of yet, no revised date for the qualifiers has been confirmed, with the matches to take place later this year between September and November.

Prior to his UAE role, Jovanovic managed Nasr across two spells. Initially, he spent more than three years at Al Maktoum Stadium from June 2013, where he ended the club’s 25-year wait for silverware by capturing three trophies in two seasons.

Jovanovic’s second stint was less successful, though, with the Nasr board dismissing him in late 2018 after less than a year in charge. At the time, the club were 10th in the Arabian Gulf League.

Jovanovic becomes the fourth manager to leave the national team since long-time incumbent Mahdi Ali resigned in March 2017.