Former Jazira boss Walter Zenga backs Emirati ‘keeper academy

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Resting up: The 54-year-old (blue) says he will stay in Dubai while he considers his long term future.

Walter Zenga says he is looking forward to a long rest from top level football, but could be tempted to pass on his considerable experience and help the next generation of Emirati goalkeepers.

Former Italy and Internazionale No1, Zenga, was relieved of his duties at Al Jazira last month following the club’s AFC Champions League exit at the hands of Al Ain.

Despite recent rumours over vacant roles at Al Shabab and Bani Yas, the 54-year-old insists he has had no contact with any Arabian Gulf League sides since he left the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

The former Al Nasr boss is settled in Dubai but bears no grudge over his exit from Jazira, describing it as “normal”.

He said: “Probably now I’ll take a rest for a long time; but I live here, I have my residency, I will stay here.”

During his time with Jazira and Nasr, Zenga has been able to work closely with two of the most highly-rated keepers in the UAE – Ali Khaseif and Ahmed Shambieh.

The Italian was instrumental in bringing through the latter at the Al Maktoum Stadium, while national team No1, Khaseif, was a virtual ever-present under him at Jazira.

However, although all keepers in the league must be UAE nationals, Zenga feels more could be done to ensure young keepers have the required skills for first-team football.

He is even considering opening a specialist academy aimed at custodians and their coaches.

“For a keeper it is very difficult because there is not a school tradition here,” he said. 

“All the time we bring in foreign coaches but sometimes the foreign coaches have difficulty improving the players. It is not easy being a keeper coach. In my opinion, there should be a school open for keepers. 

“I don’t know if I can do this in the future or not but [I would like to] open one school with keeper coaches and bring through young keepers. 

“Because, when growing a keeper you need someone who can teach them in terms of quality and technique, not in terms of diving 100 times a day. It is the technique that must be increased.

“I think the federation should be thinking about this because there is no chance of bringing in foreign keepers but we continue to bring foreign coaches. Why is it not better to open one direct school for the young keepers?”

The Italian admitted handing Shambieh, only 19 at the time, the No1 jersey ahead of then-Nasr captain Abdullah Mousa was risky, but he believes the youngster is now the best keeper in the UAE – better even than Khaseif or Al Ain’s Khalid Essa.

“Shambieh, in my opinion, is absolutely the future of the national team. Me, if I was the coach of the national team, I would bring him now directly into the team,” he said.

“Talking as an ex-keeper, not a coach, Shambieh is the one who has the most potential to become better.”

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Al Jazira confirm move for Al Hammadi

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Al Jazira have launched an audacious bid to bring Al Ahli and UAE winger Ismail Al Hammadi to the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

The Abu Dhabi club confirmed on their website yesterday that they had submitted a transfer req-uest for the Arabian Gulf League’s Emirati Player of the Year.

It is understood that the financial aspects of the deal have yet to be discussed but Jazira expect to find out tomorrow whether they will be allowed to speak to Al Hammadi.

“We are dealing under good communication and good cooperation with Al Ahli club and we are wishing that this communication will be positive for both sides,” said Jazira spokesman Mohammed Al Khudairi. 

“We are not saying we are confident, there are terms and conditions of course. It is subject to finding terms and conditions that are suitable for both parties.”

News of a move for Al Hammadi – who returns to Dubai today following the national team’s Swiss training camp – comes just 24 hours after it emerged they had made a substantial offer for his international team-mate, Habib Fardan.

Both players are highly regarded in the UAE, having helped the Whites win the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations in Bahrain and become integral to Mahdi Ali’s midfield plans.

Al Hammadi, 25, also played a major role as Ahli won a sixth league title, the UAE Super Cup and beat Jazira in the final of the Arabian Gulf Cup last term.

And, according to Al Khudairi, moves for the two local stars have been rubber stamped by the incoming coach at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Eric Gerets.

“Everything has been done under the coordination and the supervision of the head coach and the technical committee,” he added. 

“We are looking for the long-term positives and outcomes for Al Jazira and the national team.”

However, Jazira will have a fight on their hands if they are to coax either player away from Dubai.

The Abu Dhabi club made a similar approach for Al Nasr star Fardan last summer, which was rejected out of hand. 

There is little reason to believe the Blue Wave’s response will be any different this time around as they look to build on their GCC Club Cup success.

Indeed, board member Fahad Hadi insists the 23-year-old midfielder is going nowhere.

He said: “Habib is a fixed asset of the Al Nasr squad and we are not even thinking about sending him away. They can make an approach for whoever they want.”

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Schedule for AGL & UAE 2014/15 season announced

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League champions: Al Ahli will begin the season with the Super Cup on September 12.

The schedule for the 2014/15 UAE football season has been revealed, with the Arabian Gulf Super Cup kicking-off the Arabian Gulf League season on September 12.

Following league champions Al Ahli’s clash with President’s Cup winners Al Ain, the league campaign will begin on September 15, while the Arabian Gulf Cup gets underway on October 9 during the season’s first international break.

There will be another break in the AGL season during the Gulf Cup of Nations – which takes place between November 13 and 25 and will see the UAE defend their title. The UAE National team players will gather for a training camp ahead of the tournament on October 29. 

The UAE players will again be on international duty from December 21 when they prepare for the AFC Asian Cup 2015, held in Australia from January 9 to 31. During this time there will be no AGL matches only Arabian Gulf Cup, with the final scheduled for January 23.

The Arabian Gulf League will conclude on May 10.

For the UAE teams taking part in the 2015 AFC Champions League, their play-offs will begin on February 4, while those with direct entry into the tournament will begin their group stage matches on February 24 and 25.

Should Al Ain, who are through to the 2014 Champions League quarter-finals, reach the last-four and the final, allowances will be made to ensure any conflicting fixtures are rearranged.

Meanwhile, AGL teams will begin their President’s Cup campaigns at the last-16 stage on May 14 and 15, with the final set for June 3.

KEY DATES

Domestic

Arabian Gulf Super Cup: September 12, 2014
Arabian Gulf League first round: September 15 & 16, 2014
Arabian Gulf League last round:  May 10, 2015
Arabian Gulf Cup starts: October 9 & 10, 2014
Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals: January 15, 2015
Arabian Gulf Cup Final: January 23, 2015
President’s Cup (AGL clubs introduced): May 14 & 15, 2015 
President’s Cup quarter-finals: May 23, 2015 
President’s Cup semi-finals: May 30, 2015
President’s Cup Final: June 3, 2015 

Asia
2014 AFC Champions League semi-finals: September 16 – 30, 2014
2014 AFC Champions League final: October 25 & November 1, 2014
2015 AFC Champions League play-offs: February 4, 2015
2015 AFC Champions League group stage: February 24 & 25, 2015

UAE National team
Camp: August 15 – September 9, 2014
Camp: October 6 – 14, 2014
Pre-Gulf Cup Camp starts: October 29, 2014
Gulf Cup: November 13 – 26, 2014
Pre-AFC Asian Cup Camp starts: December 21, 2014
AFC Asian Cup 2015: January 9 – 31, 2015
Olympic Qualifiers: April 23 – 31, 2015
Camp: June 1 – 16, 2015

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