Yo-yo club Ittihad Kalba have ruthlessly given their survival hopes an injection of Serie A knowhow
after they surprisingly drafted in Fabio Viviani and sacked promotion-winning boss Mourad Okbi before the start of the season.
There had been no previous hint that the position of the 50-year-old Tunisian, who guided the Tigers to second place in the First Division League, was under threat ahead of their 2016/17 commitments beginning with Friday’s clash at Al Ain in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Viviani, 49, comes to the AGL after a two-year spell in the backroom staff at Palermo which also saw him temporarily take the reins for one disastrous 4-0 loss to Genoa in the top flight last January. The Italian had previously been assistant coach at Udinese from 2012-14, as well as being in sole charge of Vicenza, Sambonifacese, Portosummaga and Grosseto to mixed results.
“Ittihad Kalba has sacked coach Mourad Okbi,” the club posted on Instagram, as they bid to arrest a spell instantly bouncing between the top-two divisions since promotion was won in 2009/10. “Officially, Ittihad Kalba contracts with coach Fabio Viviani.”
Kalba had previously waited until October to switch coaches during their last two top-flight stays. Croatian Dragan Talajic got the boot at the start of 2012/13 after the first three league matches ended in defeat, with well-travelled Brazilian Vinicius Eutropio being let go during the early stages of 2014/15 when a 3-2 loss to Ajman left his team rooted to the foot of the table.
The call to produce the AGL’s first managerial casualty before the campaign has even begun is reminiscent of Dzemal Hadziabdic making way for Abdulwahab Abdulqadir at then-promoted side Fujairah in September 2014.
رسمياً #إتحاد_كلباء يتعاقد مع المدرب الإيطالي فابيو فيفياني— نادي إتحاد كلباء (@IttihadKalba) August 28, 2016
The bold alterations for Kalba are not set to end with Viviani.
Spanish playmaker Carmelo Gonzalez was dropped from their four-player foreign quota a fortnight ago despite being recruited from Thailand’s Suphanburi in July, with Arabic media subsequently linking them with ex-Dibba Al Fujairah loanee Bakary Kone.
Kalba showed similiar impatience during their last AGL stint during 2014/15, ditching Jordan forward Tha’er Bawab after an underwhelming pre-season. But lethal Burkina Faso striker Yahia Kebe, veteran Iraq centre-back Salam Shaker and prolific Romanian forward Mihai Costea should be retained this time.
In the domestic market, they have also permanently brought in midfielders Mohammed Al Khdeim and Hamad Al Hosani from Ajman, plus Emirates Club defender Eissa Abdullah. Loan deals have
been secured for promising U-21 League top scorer Shaheen Surour from Al Jazira and Al Nasr goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Baloshi.