Abdulsalam Jumaa determined to guide Al Wahda to AGL crown as former player "comes home"

Matt Jones - Editor 18:52 06/07/2019
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Abdulsalam Jumaa is adamant he wants to guide Al Wahda to a long-awaited Arabian Gulf League title after admitting he has “come home”.

Jumaa, a highly-decorated icon of UAE football, has returned to the club he spent 19 years at to take on the role of team manager, where he will work closely with new Dutch coach Maurice Steijn.

The former ADO Den Haag and VVV-Venlo manager was announced as compatriot Henk ten Cate’s replacement on June 24, when Jumaa’s celebrated return to Al Nahyan Stadium was also confirmed following his exit as a player 12 years ago.

“First of all I am so happy to be again in my club, and my home,” Juma, 42, told Sport360.

“I started my career here and I have to return something for this club. I hope that I can do something. It’s a new challenge for me as team manager.”

The 49-times capped UAE international spent a decade in the Wahda first team from 1997-2007, having emerged through the youth ranks, before leaving for capital city rivals Al Jazira, where he spent five more years.

Jumaa (r) with fellow new Wahda arrivals (from l) Nicolas Milesi, Dudu and Al Hussain Saleh.

Jumaa (r) with fellow new Wahda arrivals (from l) Nicolas Milesi, Dudu and Al Hussain Saleh.

The former defensive midfielder wrapped up his playing career at another Abu Dhabi-affiliated club, Al Dhafra, with whom he finally brought the curtain down on his illustrious playing days in 2016, aged 39.

He then immediately jumped into the Western Knights dugout as team manager, but is now back where it all began.

And he has one key goal above all others – to win the AGL title, something the Clarets have not been able to do since 2009/10. Jumaa was part of that championship-winning side nine years ago; it was one of three he lifted while with his boyhood club (also in 1998/99 and 2000/01).

He also lifted the 2000 President’s Cup with Wahda, while another league (2010/11) and two more President’s Cup (2011 and 12) successes followed with Jazira.

“Al Wahda have not been a champion for too long so we are going to work for that,” added Jumaa.

“Me, the technical staff, the players, the medical staff, the administration, we will start to work for that.

“It was too long, but this is a new challenge for me. I was a player here and won a lot of things and I hope as team manager to win a lot of things again.”

Another goal for both Jumaa and the club is a crack at the continent and the AFC Champions League crown. The Clarets face Al Nassr, champions of Saudi Arabia, in the opening knockout round of this year’s competition next month.

The first leg of the round-of-16 clash takes place at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium on August 5, with the return leg in Abu Dhabi a week later.

The Champions League is also a competition Wahda hope to reassert themselves in. They will be rewriting history next month, the Nassr tie will be the first time they are playing in a knockout game in the competition for over a decade, since they lost 3-1 on aggregate to Iran’s Sepahan in 2007.

Jumaa was part of the squad back then and is keen for the Clarets to make an impression.

“It’s very important for Al Wahda. We are looking forward to the Asia Cup,” he added.

“We know it will not be easy, it will be difficult because we are going to play a strong team that are champions in their league. But we have to not forget ourselves that we are a big team and a good team, so I hope that we will work hard in the camp to prepare ourselves for this match.”

Jumaa and the club are currently preparing for that Nassr tie in the Netherlands, where they are in the midst of a three-week training camp.

Jumaa is the oldest of three brothers, with both Abdulraheem and Ahmed having also represented the UAE.

When Jumaa left for Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in 2007, Ahmed, the youngest of the three brothers, followed him a year later and they were joined by Abdulraheem in 2011.

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Al Jazira begin summer recruitment drive with capture of Al Wahda freebie Sultan Al Ghaferi

Sport360 staff 12:31 03/07/2019
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Jurgen Streppel’s Al Jazira reign has kicked off with the capture of experienced midfielder Sultan Al Ghaferi on a free transfer.

Al Ghaferi, 32, who moves from neighbours Al Wahda, will join his new ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’ team-mates for the first time during this month’s summer training camp in the Netherlands for the 2019/20 season. He will be overseen there by new coach Streppel, who joined last month as replacement for fellow Dutchman Damien Hertog.

The bargain signing brings plenty of nous to the club, having featured in nearly 150 Arabian Gulf League matches and started five times upon the Clarets’ charge to the 2019 AFC Champions League’s knockouts. He has also represented the UAE, winning five caps.

Prior to joining Wahda, where he spent four years, Al Ghaferi had enjoyed spells at Bani Yas and Al Ain.

Ayed Mabkhout, board member of Al Jazira and CEO of the Football Company, said: “We are delighted that Al Ghaferi has signed with our club and we are all looking forward to working with him. His talent and football mentality will be invaluable to the squad.

“He brings in a lot of experience with him which our young players will benefit from and we believe he will help these youngsters reach their potential through our campaign in the new season.”

Al Ghaferi added: “I feel honoured for the club to place their trust in my abilities and I will perform at my best to contribute the success of the Pride of Abu Dhabi and promise the fans to bring them joy through our performance.

“I am looking forward to working with Jurgen Struppel and his coaching staff. I look forward to this new challenge and be part of the club’s vision that is truly exciting and I am so happy that I will be a part of that.”

Jazira finished fifth in the 2018/19 AGL, missing out on qualification to the 2020 continental competition.

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Tongo Doumbia and Saeed Al Menhali lead departures from Al Ain

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Arabian Gulf League heavyweights Al Ain have begun trimming their squad after an emphatic start to the summer transfer window, sending Mali defensive midfielder Tongo Doumbia to Ajman and loaning left-back Saeed Al Menhali to Ittihad Kalba.

Doumbia, 29, has inked a two-year deal with the Orange Brigade. The towering former Rennes, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Toulouse and Dinamo Zagreb battler was registered exclusively for the Boss’ 2018 Club World Cup and 2019 AFC Champions League rosters.

He was overlooked for their 2019/20 top-flight squad, despite three of four foreign players departing. A new challenge awaits at a mid-table outfit who shed Senegalese striker Mame Baba Thiam to Turkey’s Kasimpasa earlier this week, plus landed Emirati striker Mohammed Ibrahim from surprise champions Sharjah.

Al Menhali, 25, has inked a one-season temporary switch to Kalba. The unwanted youth product made only six top-flight appearances for the Boss in 2018/19.

Al Ain have been exceptionally busy this month as they attempt to rebuild in the wake of last term’s distant fourth-placed finish.

Diminutive Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane, highly rated Togo forward Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba and Dh25 million-rated Al Wasl forward Caio Canedo have bolstered their foreign ranks. Domestically, successful moves have been made for promising midfielders Mohamed Jamal of Al Ain and Mohammed Helal of Ajman.

These troops will be overseen by ex-Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko.

The 41-year-old – who replaces Spain’s Juan Carlos Garrido – was named Belgium’s Professional Manager of the Year for 2017/18 after he led Club Brugge to that season’s title.

Meanwhile, Portuguese minnows Portimonense are expected to soon finish Brazilian striker Iury de Castilho’s unremarkable stint at Al Nasr.

Iury, 23, was signed from the Ukraine’s Zorya Luhansk in June 2018 and then deregistered in September once ex-Spain centre forward Alvaro Negredo was landed. He failed to spark on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al Fayha in the second half of the campaign.

O Jogo has reported agreement on a three-year contract in the Algarve.

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