With extended contract comes ‘responsibility’ of guiding UAE to World Cup 2018 for Mahdi Ali

He is “family” as well as coach. His fatherly relationship with Ahmed Khalil, Omar Abdulrahman, Ali Mabkhout and others is set to continue into the peak years of their careers.

Mahdi Ali is confident the UAE has the ability to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Courtesy: UAE FA
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It must have been an easy decision for the bosses at the Football Association, and probably an easier one for Mahdi Ali. How easy? The negotiations that extended his contract into 2018 “didn’t take more than one minute” the Emirati coach said.

It would have happened earlier, he said, but the FA had been preoccupied by the Gulf Cup of Nations in November and AFC Asian Cup in January.

There was little doubt in his mind, he would stay.

“As an Emirati, it’s my duty to serve my country,” he said. The man who has led the nation to the Olympics, a Gulf Cup title and third place in the Asian Cup, is now tasked with taking them to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“It’s a big responsibility and a new stage starting with the World Cup,” he said. “Everyone has been talking about the 2019 Asian Cup but we cannot forget the World Cup qualifiers. The ambitions are bigger now and so are the responsibility.”

No doubt the UAE’s successes have made him a household name around the region. He said he has received other offers, many of which were not publicised because, according to Mahdi Ali, “everyone knows my close relationship with the UAE FA”.

His long association with the core of the senior side also is common knowledge. He is “family” as well as coach. His fatherly relationship with Ahmed Khalil, Omar Abdulrahman, Ali Mabkhout and others is set to continue into the peak years of their careers.

“Technically, this is a renewal of the contract but I prefer to call it a continuation,” said Yousef Al Serkal, the FA president. “A lot of Gulf FAs have been in touch asking to look at our technical programmes, which Mahdi Ali has been a big part of, especially with this group of players.”

The acclaim is as well-deserved as the new contract.

One by one, Mahdi Ali has been ticking off his targets, or “dreams” as he calls them.

Few UAE fans doubt he is the right man to bring them more success.

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