Apollo Perelini wants his appointment as the UAE’s Shaheen head coach to be the launch pad to the next level for Emiratis.
The former dual code rugby star was named Shaheen coach earlier this month after a successful stint as forwards coach for the UAE national team on their Asia Rugby Championship tour to Malaysia in May. Arabian Knights star Hassan Al Noobi was one of the leading lights during the three games and Perelini says he is passionate about developing more Emiratis at Shaheen level to eventually put forward for the national team.
The 45-year-old says “developing the indigenous population” has always been a passion of his since he arrived in the UAE seven years ago.
“To be offered the chance to be in charge of developing them (Emiratis) is great. I want to teach them to be as passionate about the game as I am,” said the St Helens rugby league legend, who won 13 trophies in six glorious years at Knowsley Road between 1994 and 2000.
“We need to get locals to buy into it as much as the expats. I’ve taken the Shaheen job to get things in order and improve the programme,” he said.
Perelini is hugely encouraged by the performance of the Emiratis who made May’s Malaysia tour and believes there is more to come.
Eight UAE nationals made coach Roelof Kotze’s 32-man training squad. Six – Knights duo Al Noobi and Mohammed Hassan, Al Ain Amblers’ Hareb Al Azri and unattached trio Mohamad Al Alawi, Mohannad Shaker and Walid Al Balooshi – made the final cut of 25.
Al Noobi shone during the Championship, scoring 25 of the UAE’s 88 points. The full-back’s last minute penalty attempt against the host nation in the UAE’s second Division II game meant the touring party lost by just a point.
They won their other two games, an emphatic 53-22 rout of Thailand and a 16-12 triumph over Chinese Taipei, but the 20-19 defeat to Malaysia meant they gained promotion to Division I at the UAE’s expense.
“Several Emirati players made the national team and I’m encouraged by it,” said Perelini.
“They have the right to be there and I want to develop more of them. I want to turn to the UAE RF and tell them I have a local player just as good as an expat. I want to put more locals on the pitch who deserve to be there.”
Having worked as head of PE at Repton School, Dubai, and opened his own rugby academy during his time in the Emirates, Perelini is relishing a return to coaching athletes.
Perelini’s reign will begin after Ramadan when preparations will begin in earnest.
He will draft a training programme ahead of the new season in September, with the Shaheen to be entered into the Community Shield, a third tier domestic competition.
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