Olaroiu was the ‘missing ingredient’ from Al Ahli

Ahli chairman tells The National the seeds of his side's championship success were sown with the recruitment of Cosmin Olaroiu last summer.

Al Ahli team chairman Abdullah Al Naboodah says coach Cosmin Olaroiu was the ingredient the team was previously missing. Jaime Puebla / The National
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DUBAI // Abdullah Al Naboodah, the Al Ahli chairman, said Cosmin Olaroiu provided the catalyst to the club's clinching of the Arabian Gulf League title.

The Romanian joined the Rashid Stadium side last summer, following two hugely successful seasons with Al Ain, in which he guided the Garden City club to successive league crowns.

Olaroiu maintained his hold on the trophy on Thursday night, when Ahli defeated Al Wasl 2-1 to secure the championship with three rounds to spare. It was the Dubai club’s first league title in five seasons.

“He’s been vital, one of the most important members in this team, and the missing ingredient,” Al Naboodah said. “He’s changed a lot of things and worked hard with the team, but most importantly, he won the dressing room over very quickly. He planted the seeds that we fight until the end, that we never give up, and that translated into team victories in the past few months. [Olaroiu] convinced them they are true champions. They deserve every victory they’ve got this season.”

Indeed, Ahli have become serial winners this campaign and could yet add the Arabian Gulf League Cup and President’s Cup to their title triumph. They contest the first of those finals next Saturday, against Al Jazira, although their next assignment is a crucial Asian Champions League clash on Tuesday.

Should Ahli defeat Al Hilal, the Saudi Arabian side, they will qualify for the knockout stages. Having overseen the past four years of gradual progress, Al Naboodah is understandably keen to continue the club’s recent trajectory.

“It has been a long process, but success in football is not something you build in an instant,” he said. “It takes time. If you want to challenge for all titles and in all competitions you need to build a strong team, so thank god we succeeded in that and we have a few more to go.

“It hasn’t been easy, but the best team won the championship. We deserved it. Now we close this chapter and focus on the Champions League.”


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