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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