Al Shabab are expected to unveil the man who almost kept yo-yo club Ittihad Kalba in the Arabian Gulf League, Goran Tufegdzic, when they announce their new coach on Tuesday afternoon.
The Hawks started strongly under Fred Rutten in the opening months of 2016/17, but a terminal decline cost the Dutchman his job in January and then saw them limp home eighth under doomed successor Miroslav Djukic. The Serbian’s appalling record of seven defeats, one win and three draws in all competitions meant his short-term deal was never going to be renewed.
His countrymen should now take the reins for next season. The ex-Kuwait tactician, 45, came within minutes on Saturday of halting a yo-yo run of instant promotion and relegation dating back to 2009/10 for Kalba.
The combination of Nasser Al Shamrani’s late winner for Al Ain on the final day and Emirates Club’s advantage of one away goal in a head-to-head record caused the Tigers to drop down, once again, to First Division League.
Tufegdzic took over from Italian Fabio Viviani in December. He went on to earn 10 of their 19 total points, with wins being recorded against Dibba Al Fujairah and prospective employers Shabab.
Kalba seemed poised to stay up in early March, before a ruinous run of one point from their last five matches dragged them back into Emirates’ reach.
Hasek plays it cool
Joyous Emirates boss Ivan Hasek wants to revel in his club’s miraculous survival rather than jump into a decision about the future.
Hasek, 53, revitalised the floundering Falcons following his December appointment on a five-month contract and helped them to narrowly extend their four-year AGL residency. The ex-Al Ahli and Al Wasl supremo was asked about his plans in the aftermath of the weekend’s 1-0 win against Al Nasr, but declined to state anything definitive.
He said: “Now in this moment, I do not speak. I am happy here and it is one of the most serious clubs in the UAE.
“I am happy to stay. We speak about this in the future.”
The setting said more than words about Diego Maradona, arguably football’s greatest player, as a coach.
Sunday’s unveiling as Fujairah boss attracted the media en masse, which is typical for a character made up of equal parts inspiration and controversy. But the end of a five-year hiatus from the technical area came at a second-division outfit, in a city far away from the bright lights of football’s beating European heart and in a nondescript hotel’s conference room.
The challenge now for club and tactician is to repeal the sense of pantomime about the whole exercise throughout 2017/18.
Once the startling burst of photographer’s flashes which always greet Argentina’s venerated World Cup 1986 winner subsided, he audibly requested “un cafe” – a coffee – then got down to the business of delivering the unique soundbites lapped up by global media.
The obvious issue is whether this facet was most important when deciding Maradona was best qualified to take Fujairah back up to the Arabian Gulf League.
No other action in the club’s 49-year history has generated coverage in publications such as L’Equipe, BBC Sport and Gazzetta dello Sport.
This is especially pertinent when you consider that he was last sacked by Al Wasl after a trophlyess 2011/12 and exited Lionel Messi’s La Albiceleste because of a brutal 4-0 chasing by Germany in World Cup 2010’s quarter-finals.
The man immortalised in graffiti on the walls of Naples went on to say Fujairah is “my top-priority project” and he wanted “the glory of their grandfather and father” to be seen by Benjamin Aguero and Diego Fernando Maradona.
Tellingly, no details were proffered about if he has developed his coaching skills while away.
The hype will subside as dogged pre-season work is undertaken. Maradona and his new employers have plenty to prove, starting from now.
Fired up Argentina legend Diego Maradona has vowed to make it “an impossible task” for anyone to beat his Fujairah side, as one of football’s most-iconic figures prepares to end a long absence from the dugout.
Maradona, 56, stunned the globe a week ago when a surprise one-season deal was announced to coach the Wolves for 2017/18. This means the storied ex-Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli superstar will be in charge of an outfit in First Division League, five years since he was sacked by top-flight Al Wasl.
Speaking at Al Diar Siji Hotel in his new city on the east coast of the UAE, El Pibe de Oro reinforced an ambition to guide the Wolves back to glory.
“I want to achieve the goals and desires of the people of Fujairah, as well as all our aspirations,” said the controversial World Cup 1986 winner with La Albiceleste.
“Fujairah is my top-priority project and I will give it all my time, nothing else will distract me.
“Those who think of beating Fujairah will have to beat Maradona. I will make this an impossible task for everyone.
“Mentally, we are very strong. From the first moment we spoke, this house has become my house.
“There is a great blend here, between the technical and tactical aspects. I have been provided great support to achieve success here.
“I have received many other offers. But as I said, honestly, I am a son of Dubai and son of the UAE.”
Fujairah finished fourth last term, two places and nine points away from the promotion spots. They enjoyed a two-year spell in the Arabian Gulf League from 2014-16.
The man trying to lead them back to the Emirates’ premier competition is widely considered one of the sport’s greatest players, but a coach with a patchy record.
Despite this chequered reputation, Maradona insists he was not short of options to get back into management. His previous trophyless tenure with Wasl was terminated midway through a two-year arrangement.
He said: “I received invitations from many places, Kazakhstan and Russia for example.
“But I have told my agent to stop, as my only agent now is Fujairah.
“Football doesn’t know fear, it knows joy and entertainment. Unfortunately, I am 56-years old and I am not able to play anymore.”
Maradona has spent the last seven years living in Dubai after his contract with Argentina was terminated following a disappointing quarter-final exit at World Cup 2010.
Apart from Wasl, who he yesterday claimed “fooled” him, Maradona also worked as an ambassador for Dubai Sports Council. A penchant for quarrelsome behaviour continued throughout this time and reappeared once again.
“The UAE saved me from [disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp] Blatter and [deceased former Argentine Football Association president Julio] Grondona,” Maradona claimed. “They opened the doors when all other doors were closed because of them.
“It is not about money, it is about feelings.”