Former Al Wahda and Mexico coach Javier Aguirre has emerged as a potential option to lead the UAE on home soil at the 2019 Asian Cup.
The Whites are currently searching for a new boss after Argentine Edgardo Bauza shockingly moved to World Cup 2018 qualifiers Saudi Arabia last Thursday after only three competitive matches.
An emergency board meeting was held by the UAE Football Association on Tuesday, the identity of a successor one of several issues up for discussion. Trophy-hoarding Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club supremo Cosmin Olaroiu remains their No1 pick, but the Romanian both distanced himself from the job at the weekend and has one year remaining on his contract worth a reputed €6.5 million (Dh28.5m) per annum.
This has presented an opportunity for other candidates. Aguirre, 58, is unattached following an exit from the Clarets in the wake of May’s victory in the President’s Cup final and ex-Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka, 44, has also expressed an interest through his agents at DNN Sport.
According to Spanish media, the pair have turned down the chance this week to takeover pointless La Liga-strugglers Alaves.
Aguirre fulfils much of the criteria laid out when the governing body was searching for a successor to Mahdi Ali in the wake of March’s resignation. They coveted a Latin American coach, with experience of international football.
The ex-Atletico Madrid tactician led Mexico to second-round exits at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. He would go on to resign from Japan in the wake of the UAE’s quarter-final victory against the Samurai Blue at the 2015 Asian Cup.
His candidature is further strengthened by a firm grasp of English and time leading Wahda from 2015-17, a run including victories in the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf Cup and 2016/17 President’s Cup.
Emerging Emirati talents such as forward Mohamed Al Akbari, defender Ahmed Rashed and attacker Mohammed Al Hammadi featured regularly under him.
But he was let go by Wahda after he could only finish a distant fifth in the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League. Aguirre also stressed a desire to spend time with his family once he departed Abu Dhabi.
Another option is the combined team of Karanka and Spain Under-17 coach Santi. They would offer a project for the future, plus their joint wage would be less than the $4m a year agreed to by Bauza.
Karanka was assistant to Jose Mourinho from 2010-13 at Real Madrid, a club he previously played for.
Striking out on his own, he gained promotion for Middlesbrough while there from 2013-17. He departed by mutual consent in March after a difficult return to the Premier League.
The UAE currently have no friendlies booked for the next international break from October 2-10. Their failure to make World Cup 2018 was confirmed this month.
The UAE face a tough challenge once again to convince reluctant Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club coach Cosmin Olaroiu to lead them on home soil at the 2019 Asian Cup, following Edgardo Bauza’s shocking defection to Saudi Arabia late on Thursday night.
A surprise chain of events has led to tumultuous change in the Arabian Gulf. Enraged Dutchman Bert van Marwijk terminated talks about a contract renewal just a week since qualifying his adopted nation to World Cup 2018 after an epic fallout with the Saudi Football Federation about their reportedly unilateral decision to dismiss members of his coaching staff, plus a dogged reluctance to live in the Kingdom.
This astonishing development saw them move for Bauza. He took the UAE post in May on a one-a-half-year deal after his sacking by Argentina, with a press conference only held on Tuesday in which he mapped out the future alongside senior UAE Football Association officials in the wake of the disappointing failure to make 2018’s global tournament.
Without the knowledge of Van Marwijk, harmonious negotiations between the two governing bodies reached a swift conclusion that ensured El Paton’s spell in charge of the Whites has finished after three competitive games – June’s 1-1 draw in Thailand, plus this month’s 2-1 victory against the Saudis and 1-0 loss to Iraq. Into this vacuum, Olaroiu, 48, has emerged as the governing body’s overwhelming No1 pick.
ترسيخًا لمبدأ الوحدة الخليجية وتعزيز التعاون بين الاتحادين، وافق الإتحاد الإماراتي على طلب الاتحاد السعودي بالتعاقد مع المدرب إدغاردو باوزا pic.twitter.com/ms6PeGaZ1z
— uaefa (@uaefa_ae) September 14, 2017
He is held in the highest regard following stints with Al Ain and – the now defunct – Al Ahli which have seen 10 pieces of silverware lifted during six years in the Emirates.
Another advantage for Olaroiu is the deep links he has forged while successfully coaching the majority of the current UAE squad at various junctures. These include 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman, 2015 recipient Ahmed Khalil and key centre-back Ismail Ahmed.
He was shortlisted as a replacement for Mahdi Ali once he resigned in March, although a concentration on club commitments prevailed.
This stance looks to be repeated less than six months later.
سعادة خليفة سليمان رئيس اللجنة العليا للدمج يشهد ختام تحضيرات # شباب_الأهلي لمواجهة حتا في دوري الخليج العربي مساء اليوم pic.twitter.com/tfoLDdCyMG
— نادي شباب الأهلي دبي (@alahlicclub) September 15, 2017
Olaroiu currently holds no desire to manage another national team. A group-stage exit was incurred when on loan with the Saudis for the 2015 Asian Cup.
An intent to explore heading back to Europe when his reputed €6.5 million (Dh28.6m) per annum deal expires at Shabab Al Ahli next summer was also cited at the time.
Such figures appear far beyond the budget of the UAE. Bauza was contracted for just $4m a year.
Frustrations about an inability to complete any incoming transactions at his merged club are not currently large enough to force an exit.
One alternative target could be respected ex-Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka.
Shabab Al Ahli today kick-off their 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League commitments at home to Hatta.
The UAE women’s national football team was formed in 2009, which coincided with Abu Dhabi hosting the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time.
Since then, the women’s game has been receiving more and more support from the government, as well as Abu Dhabi Sports Council, to further develop it and its reach.
“Since the first Club World Cup more girls are opening up about the game and the society here are accepting the fact that women are playing football,” says UAE national team player Nouf Al Anzi.
Al Anzi has been on the team for several years, and is happy to be part of a group of young women changing perceptions regarding female participation in football here in the Emirates.
“Some people, when I tell them I play football they say ‘what? Girls, playing football?’ But we get support from our families and close friends. The sport wasn’t popular but now we can find opportunities to play so it’s good,” she told Sport360 two years ago in an interview.
The UAE national women’s team narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Asian Cup but the players remain hopeful in achieving great results in the future.
“Representing your country is something but actually wearing a shirt that has a badge, while playing and trying to achieve something, to be honest it’s such an honour to wear this shirt. I feel so proud. I hope my parents and family and the society I live in feel as proud as I feel,” says national team player Amal Wael.
The UAE women’s team is currently ranked 80 in the world according the FIFA rankings.
“With the support of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the national team has a great opportunity that we have more girls coming to play football,” says team captain Noura Al Mazrouei.
Watch the video above (courtesy of Abu Dhabi Sports Council) to know more about the Emirati national football team.