UAE's calendar facing a conflict
ABU DHABI // The UAE are poised to put regional pride before continental glory when a clash of fixtures will see the national team participate in two major international tournaments at the same time. The Asian Games and the Gulf Cup both fall in November, a scheduling pile-up which will force Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the Football Association, to decide where to send a weakened national team.
The full UAE side, however, seem certain to stay in the Middle East and contest the Gulf Cup. The UAE have never reached the semi-finals of the Asian Games, but won the Gulf Cup as recently as 2007. "The Gulf Cup is coming at the wrong time," said al Rumaithi. "It was decided before we knew when the Asian Games were going to start. Had we known we would have selected another date, but now we are committed.
"We have a technical committee meeting [today] and we will see how we can manage two major competitions," he said. "The Gulf Cup is not only a sporting arena, it is also political and all our neighbouring countries compete. Usually only first teams go and we will try to send ours to make the tournament as successful as possible. "But we are not yet sure about whether it will run on time or be delayed. I must emphasise that we are supportive of Yemen and we will support the Gulf Cup to the maximum, even if we have to take a reserve team to the Asian Games - we will do it."
Another concern for al Rumaithi is history seemingly repeating itself ahead of this December's Club World Cup (CWC) in Abu Dhabi. Al Wahda, the Pro League champions, have recruited Laszlo Boloni, the Romanian, to replace Josef Hickersberger, the previous coach who did not have his contract renewed. The series of events mirrors what unravelled at Al Ahli last season. After winning the league, the Dubai club were embarrassingly eliminated by part-timers Auckland FC, the Oceania champions, in the CWC's preliminary qualifier.
Wahda's lack of stability is concerning al Rumaithi. "I'm afraid because what is happening with Al Wahda happened last year with Al Ahli," he said. "The manager has left and one of their good foreign players has moved [Pinga, the Brazilian who has signed for Ahli]. Changing the foreign players is a dodgy situation because sometimes you succeed with them and other times, even when they are great players, they do not perform well.
"But the club is considering this and that's why they have brought in Boloni. He was here two years ago as the coach of Al Jazira, and knows the team, the league and the players. I think Al Wahda will show a better face of our football than Al Ahli did last year." Nonetheless, al Rumaithi backed Wahda bosses who pushed through Hickersberger's departure after the Austrian's excessive salary demands.
"I don't believe clubs should let their arms be twisted," he added. "I heard Hickersberger came in with big demands after winning the league and in truth, Al Wahda should have probably won more than just the league. The club thought he was trying to twist their arm and they said 'that's it'." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: May 25, 2010 04:00 AM