‘Untrue and unfounded’: UAE FA deny reports Mahdi Ali has resigned as national team manager

Manager told players after Tuesday's win against Iraq it would be his last in charge, but FA says reports of his resignation are untrue. John McAuley reports.
Mahdi Ali told his players after Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Iraq it would be his last game in charge of the UAE. The FA on Wednesday denied reports he had quit his post, however. Tom Dulat / Getty Images
Mahdi Ali told his players after Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Iraq it would be his last game in charge of the UAE. The FA on Wednesday denied reports he had quit his post, however. Tom Dulat / Getty Images

DUBAI // The Football Association has denied reports Mahdi Ali has resigned from his post as UAE national team manager.

The Emirati, whose contract runs until 2019, had sparked speculation about his position in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 2018 World Cup qualifying victory against Iraq at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Mahdi Ali had told his players immediately following the win that the fixture, a 2-0 victory for the hosts, would be his last in charge, and then he refused to commit fully to the role when questioned about his future in the post-match news conference.

Ivan Jovanovic, the former Al Nasr manager, current Al Ahli manager Cosmin Olaroiu and Belgian Marc Wilmots have all been linked as possible successors. However, the FA on Wednesday rejected speculation suggesting Mahdi Ali had walked away from the job.

See also:

• Mahdi Ali: Coy on future as UAE manager

• Ismail Matar: UAE have retaken control of 2018 World Cup destiny

• Report: Khalil and Matar get UAE back on road to Russia

• Omar Abdulrahman: Big week ahead for UAE and Al Ain

“News circulating about the technical and management structures of the national team, and about Mahdi resigning from his position as coach of the national team, are untrue and unfounded,” said Mohammed bin Hazzam, the FA general secretary.

“The coming period requires everyone to come together and stand behind the team and support all the matches in order to achieve the dream of qualifying for the World Cup.”

Mahdi Ali is understood to have been deeply disappointed by the criticism he received following last month’s 3-0 defeat to Saudi Arabia in Jeddah. Supporters took to social media to call for his resignation, with “Sack Mahdi” even trending on Twitter.

As such, he is believed to have decided to step down from the position he has held since 2012, but will apparently now meet senior UAE football officials to discuss his future. There is a willingness for the former Ahli midfielder to remain having guided this group of players to the 2012 Olympics, the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations title and a third-place finish at last year’s Asian Cup.

The UAE currently sit fourth in Group B at the halfway point of the third and final qualification stage for Russia 2018, but are only one point off leaders Saudi Arabia. The top two teams progress to the global finals, while third place will have to navigate two play-off rounds to seal a place at the tournament.

The UAE resume their quest next March against Japan and Australia, but when asked on Tuesday if he would still be in charge for that double-header, Mahdi Ali said: “For me, I didn’t think about this issue. My most important thing was to do my duty and win this game.

“This was most important for us. Whether I am with the team or not be with the team, most important for this period was to win the game. This game was very important for the team, regardless if we continue. For me, I am doing my job and I thank everybody.

“I thank all the leaders I worked with in the federation. I thank everybody for supporting me and giving to me. I thank all the players, my staff, all the fans and all my friends who have trusted in me. I think this gives me more motivation. We will see what will happen in the future.”

Nevertheless, the doubts surrounding Mahdi Ali have prompted substantial interest in the UAE manager’s job, with several agents reportedly contacting the FA to pitch prospective clients.

Yet Bin Hazzam said: “Mahdi Ali spoke to the players after the game and congratulated them on winning. He advised them to do even more in the coming period.

“The UAE FA board have developed a comprehensive evaluation plan for the final stages of qualifying and this will be reviewed by all parties.”

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Published: November 16, 2016 04:00 AM

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