Dubai: Romanian football agent-turned-entrepreneur Robert Cristian Trif will find out this week if his football club Athletic Dubai can enter this season’s UAE second division.
Trif, 34, officially launched the club on Friday and awaits confirmation to see if his team can replace one of three disbanded clubs in the UAE’s second tier: Al Raams and Al Jazira Al Hamra from Ras Al Khaimah and Al Arabi of Umm Al Quwain.
If successful, Trif would become the first expatriate to own and run a professional UAE club, but he told Gulf News he had even bigger ambitions.
“My strategy will be long term, I’m interested in building a club which can be sustainable and in five years win the first division [Arabian Gulf League] championship.
“Within two years we want to get into the first division, in three years we want to be in a stable position and in five years we want to be playing in the Asian Champions League.”
Athletic Dubai will play in blue and white with a falcon emblem and Trif claims they have the option of three unnamed Dubai stadiums to call home. Ilie Balaci, the Romanian former coach of Al Shabab, Al Ahli and Al Ain, is also thought to be a favourite to lead the club.
Trif promised to focus on developing local youth, both Emirati and expatriate, without a dependency on ageing foreigners. “This is not a show club, I’m looking at the long term and in order to build a long term club I have to start at ground zero, and focus on youth and invest in future talent.”
He also vowed to engage both the Emirati and expatriate community, in order to raise attendances. “Fans are the only thing missing from UAE football,” he said. “If we can bring everyone together the football will get better and we can make this a much better league year-by-year.”
He added coaches and players would be given the time they need to produce the goods. “It’s important to have stability, that’s why we need the right people on board, because in order to have success you need a long term strategy – that’s my philosophy. I would be honoured to see other clubs using us as an example, but at the same time there are other models of success here for us to learn from.”
Even if Athletic Dubai don’t get accepted into the UAE second division this season, Trif said he would continue preparing the squad for next year. “I’m not solely fixated with getting into the second division this season,” he said, “But it would be fantastic for us to be there. We have finalised our proposal and await the UAE FA’s decision.”