Mahdi Ali hired to 'raise the spirits' of struggling Shabab Al Ahli Dubai players, says official

Cosmin Olaroiu replaced following seven successive draws to leave club fifth in Arabian Gulf League table

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai club turned to Mahdi Ali to "raise the spirits" of the players after determining Cosmin Olaroiu was no longer capable of reviving the team's fortunes.

The Emirati has been out of football since resigning as UAE manager nearly eight months ago following a 2-0 defeat to Australia in 2018 World Cup qualifying. He returns to management to find a club wallowing in fifth place and stuck in limbo following seven successive draws in the Arabian Gulf League.

It was reported early on Sunday that Olaroiu parted company with the club by mutual consent. However, a club official revealed to The National that the club's hierarchy had decided that the club decided to make a change after deeming the Romanian was no longer able to motivate the players to perform at the highest level.

“The club management discussed the reports of the technical staff following the draw against Al Dhafra in our most recent league game and decided a change was required,” the official said.

“The performances of the players were deemed to be on the decline, especially when we look at the high level of both the local and foreign players we have in the squad.

“A majority of our local players are in the national team squad and the overseas players we have are very experienced. Hence we expect them to produce better results than they have been doing in the past few games.

“One of the reasons they are not playing to their potential may be because they need someone to raise their spirits and we couldn’t think of anyone as good as Mahdi Ali to do that for us."


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The 1-1 draw against lowly Dhafra last Friday was the last straw for Olaroiu who had previously led Al Ahli to two league and two Arabian Gulf League Cup titles before the club merged with Al Shabab and Dubai in the summer.

Named AGL Coach of the Year three times, Olaroiu also led Al Ain to back-to-back league titles before his contentious move to rivals Al Ahli in 2013.

Mahdi Ali is no stranger to the Rashid Stadium. The former Ahli player began his managerial career with the club's juniors before progressing to the first team in 2009.

During his four-and-a-half years in charge of the UAE team, he led the side to the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations title and to third place at the 2015 Asian Cup. The UAE also reached the final stage of World Cup qualifying, finishing fourth behind Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

“Mahdi Ali knows all the players as he has worked with many of them both during their youth days and then graduating to the senior national team,” added the official.

“I can’t say anything about Mahdi Ali’s contract but he will be in charge for the remainder of the season for sure. The club will present the new coach to the media once the deal is finalised.”

Mahdi Ali’s first task is a Dubai derby against Al Wasl on Friday.