The UAE Football Association has a new president after Marwan bin Ghalita beat long-serving Yousuf Al Serkal in a close vote in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Bin Ghalita, 44, gained 19 of the votes from the Emirates’ 34 professional clubs, edging out Al Serkal (15) by a narrow margin of four.
Former Al Nasr chairman Bin Ghalita will now lead the FA until 2020, a period which will include the UAE hosting the 2019 Asian Cup.
In a tight vote held at the capital’s National Archives, Bin Ghalita and Al Serkal were neck-and- neck throughout, with the new man pulling ahead right at the end.
A new era now begins for the FA and Bin Ghalita, who only relinquished his post as chairman of the Blue Wave last month in order to oppose Al Serkal.
Yesterday’s vote halted Al Serkal’s attempts to gain a third term in office.
He claimed his first election victory in 2004, prematurely stepping aside in 2007 after the Gulf Cup was lifted on home soil.
He headed a temporary board in 2011, prior to regaining the top position during the 2012 vote.
The ovation as the Al Ahli players stepped onto the turf at Rashid Stadium on Friday night was unquestionably deserved.
Apt reward for the UAE’s leading club of 2015/16 had been confirmed on Thursday. A weakened Al Ain’s loss at Fujairah had seen the Arabian Gulf League title finally slip from their grasp and head back to Dubai, 24 hours before their rival’s penultimate fixture against Bani Yas.
A record 66-point tally can be attained during next week’s finale at home to rock-bottom Al Shaab if they gain a 21st win from 26 matches. Their 55 goals scored and just 20 conceded are the best in the division, a colossal +35 goal difference testament to their dominance over the rest of the field.
With the depth of squad now available to boss Cosmin Olaroiu and the hierarchy’s continued investment, there seems little chance of a repeat of 2014/15’s wretched title defence.
The challenge now is for the Middle East’s premier side to take one giant leap forward and improve on last year’s first run to the AFC Champions League final. Everything is in place to take the fight for supremacy to the Chinese Super League’s big-spending hordes.
The credit has to begin at the top. Olaroiu – Friday’s ugly rant aside – has repaid the faith shown in him with last summer’s contract extension when most other clubs would have ungratefully considered making a replacement, leading his side again with the aplomb shown during 2013/14’s incredible debut campaign.
The board led by chairman Abdulla Al Naboodah and CEO Ahmed Khalifa have made ambitious marquee signings to compliment the region’s No. 1 coach.
Last summer saw a club-record €17 million (Dh70m) lavished on Senegal forward Moussa Sow and €7m (Dh28.2m) spent on lethal Lima, a new high-water mark for domestic transfers then being created by the Dh60m lavished on international defensive midfielder Khamis Esmail during January.
This followed on from the previous winter’s eye-catching recruitment of Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro. All this has come at a time when Al Ain combined pulling the purse strings tighter with signing flops, such as winger Danilo Asprilla, forward Ryan Babel and striker Emmanuel Emenike.
Olaroiu has exhibited tactical fluidity throughout the season.
Happy to veer away from the region’s ubiquitous 4-2-3-1 formation in a bid to get the best out of his fearsome attack, a variety of other shapes have been utilised depending on the opposition. Motivation and organisation have never been problems, with the Middle East’s No. 1 boss always a pro-active and motivating presence on the touchline.
Clarification - some - on Olaroiu's future: says he's leaving, Al Ahli deny any knowledge. Comments seem heat of the moment. #alahli_uae— John McAuley (@_JMcAuley) April 29, 2016
The strategy – drawn from Chinese kings and their continental conquerors, Guangzhou Evergande – to stockpile UAE internationals has proven inspired.
The latest Whites squad which secured a spot in the third and final round of World Cup 2018 qualifying contained nine Ahli stars, with the roll call led by 2015 AFC Asian Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil and exuberant winger Ismail Al Hammadi.
The current seven-point lead is fully justified and would have been even higher if 19-goal Lima hadn’t been injured since December. The challenge now is to translate this supremacy onto the continental stage.
They possess all that is required to achieve it in 2017.
An emotional Cosmin Olaroiu cast doubt on his future at Arabian Gulf League winners Al Ahli on Friday night, though club officials have moved to dampen talk of a rupturing exit from their coach.
Olaroiu, 46, launched an eight-minute tirade in the aftermath of the 2-2 draw with Bani Yas which saw him sent to the stands late on for vociferously protesting referee Ahmed Salim Khalfan’s decisions.
The ex-Al Ain supremo declined to take questions in the post-match press conference and instead detailed grievances – translated from his native Romanian – which appeared to point at him stepping aside.
He said: “I work where I am appreciated. In three years, we did great things – two Super Cups, two league titles, one Arabian Gulf Cup and reached four finals.
“Thanks to all my players for their efforts.
“I hope whoever is replacing me does well at Al Ahli and I hope the club does well after me.”
A gala evening to celebrate the Red Knights’ crowning as champions for a seventh time with two matches to spare disintegrated at the death.
Olaroiu has regularly fallen foul of officials since he arrived in the Emirates five years ago with the Boss.
Another eventful match for the Romanian saw him vigorously protest anchorman Khamis Esmail’s red card for two instantaneous bookings, before the failure to punish an alleged elbow from visiting midfielder Amer Abdulrahman on UAE team-mate Ismail Al Hammadi caused him to be dismissed.
Speaking to reporters after the final whistle, team supervisor Abdulmajeed Hussein pointed the finger at the referee and insisted Olaroiu was going nowhere.
He said: “I don’t want to talk about this, because I don’t know anything about this. Cosmin extended his contract for two more seasons and we are planning to win more trophies this season and next season.
“Maybe it’s because he is a little bit upset because of the referee, but I haven’t spoken to him. Always the referees kick him outside.
“If you’re a big coach, a trophy winner, a champion every time, but because of the referees’ mistake they send you off and there’s no respect, surely anyone would be upset.
“For sure, we have a plan to go forward with Cosmin. We plan for many things together.
“For us, he is our coach. I think he’s the best coach on the continent – he won the league trophy with Al Ain twice and with us, plus the Arabian Gulf Super Cup, Etisalat Cup, Arabian Gulf Cup. Maybe he is just angry with the referee.”