Dubai: Olympic football team coach Mahdi Ali has been unanimously chosen to replace Abdullah Al Misfer as head coach of the UAE’s senior national team.
Yousuf Al Sarkal, chairman of the UAE Football Association, confirmed the decision following Monday night’s board meeting at the governing body’s Al Khawaneej headquarters here.
Ali, 47, who guided the UAE’s Under-23s to their first ever Olympic Games this summer, will now sit with a technical committee to formally discuss a three-year contract. Al Sarkal said this would be done in a matter of days, giving Ali time to prepare for the September 6 friendly against Japan in Niigata.
Those formalities withstanding, Ali will become the first Emirati to accept the role in an official capacity beyond that of caretaker coach. It follows his nine-year association with the UAE’s youth set-up, guiding the Under-16s in 2003 through to eventual Olympic qualification in 2012.
Along the way Ali led this “golden generation” to a silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games and won the 2008 Under-19 Asian Cup.
Misfer was given the job temporarily late last year following the sacking of Serbian Srecko Katanec, who was unable to guide the UAE past the first stage of 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Ali’s key priorities will be the 2013 Gulf Cup and qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup, along the way blooding new talent with the eventual aim of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“With Mahdi Ali we have gained trust,” Al Sarkal told Gulf News. “He has managed to influence the public to respect him as a coach from his history with this team from an early age until now.
“We did not look at this from the point of view that he was an Emirati national. We are looking for a coach with good capabilities that will be good for us and we think Mahdi Ali is the better choice.
“Language and culture did not come into it — it’s never been an obstacle, players are used to foreign coaches at their clubs. Football is a language that everybody understands and Ali was selected on capability.
“With his results and accomplishments and finally in his achievement of qualifying the team to London 2012, we believe we have the right man.
“The team’s performance in London, regardless of losing two matches and drawing with Senegal, was accepted. We believe that if he continues with the majority of those players being with the first national team, he will be the better choice for us.
“Mahdi Ali is the people’s choice. The majority, the masses, have supported this decision, including the media. The reaction to this has been largely positive.”
Al Sarkal added: “There were other candidates. We have contacted many coaches but we have not finalised with any of them. It is therefore not good from our side to say who the unsuccessful candidates were. I consider that as an insult to a coach. We respect them since they agreed to discuss their intention to sign a contract with us in the first place. Therefore forgive me for not mentioning names.”