Olaroiu confident in Al Ain's potential
AL AIN // The most decorated club in UAE football are determined to learn from their past mistakes.
Last season was Al Ain's worst ever. They finished 10th in the league - avoiding relegation by one place - and failed to make any impression in either the President's Cup or the Etisalat Cup.
Now they are pulling out all the stops to make amends.
On paper, the 2011/12 version of Al Ain looks a formidable prospect. Pre-season preparations have gone smoothly - in complete contrast to the last season - and sights have been firmly set on winning the title.
"They [the club's new administration] have ambitious plans to take them to those old glory days and we are all working to achieve it," said Cosmin Olaroiu, the club's new Romanian head coach.
"The build-up is taking shape and the club management is doing everything possible to assemble a strong squad. I think we have some pretty good players already and we are working on the combinations."
Al Ain have won nine league titles, five President's Cups and the 2003 Asian Champions League. A new administration at the club is now working on returning Al Ain to the top of the game in the UAE.
The club had several setbacks at the start of last season.
Marcio Emerson, the Brazilian, left halfway through his two-year contract and Jorge Valdivia, the Chile international and one of the league's best players, departed shortly before the start of the season.
The previous club administration failed to bring in high-quality replacements in time and eventually signed Juma Saeed, the 19-year-old Ivorian forward, from their youth team, on the last day of the transfer window.
This time around, however, the club have gone about their business swiftly. They appointed Olaroiu, the former Steaua Bucharest coach, and completed deals with three foreign players - Ignacio Scocco of Argentina, Mirel Radoi from Romania and Yasser Al Qahtani, the Saudi Arabia captain.
Al Qahtani is on a one-year loan from Hilal and joins as the club's Asian player among their four foreigners.
A number of Emirati players have been signed including Helal Saeed, the UAE international midfielder, who returns to Al Ain after a two-year spell with Al Jazira, where he won the league and President's Cup last season.
Al Ain's preparations included a 24-day camp in Italy and Austria in July, and they are currently playing in a four-team international tournament organised by the club and involving Al Riffa of Bahrain, Al Suwaiq of Oman and Saudi giants Al Shabab.
Al Ain won their opening game 6-1 against Riffa and drew 0-0 with Suwaiq. They meet Shabab in the final match of the round robin league tomorrow at the Khalifa bin Zayed stadium.
"The friendly tournament provides me time to experiment," Olaroiu said. "I am quite happy with the progress we are making. The results in the two friendlies have been satisfying despite the fact we failed to score against Suwaiq. We are still at the beginning of the road and team building, which takes time. I will learn more about the capabilities of each player."
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Published: August 18, 2011 04:00 AM