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Field our forwards, UAE coach insists

Mahdi wants clubs to start Emiratis up front in 70 per cent of games

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Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News ArchivesPhoto Caption lead inMahdi Ali, UAE team Coach
Gulf News

Dubai: Newly-appointed UAE coach Mahdi Ali wants new rules obliging local clubs to field Emirati strikers in at least 70 per cent of all league fixtures to be introduced in order to improve the national team’s strike rate.

Speaking at his unveiling as coach at the UAE Football Association headquarters in Al Khawaneej on Thursday, Ali announced his three-year plan and underlined some key concerns.

Under previous coach Srecko Katanec, the UAE were criticised for failing to score a single goal in their three group matches as they crashed out of the 2011 Asian Cup. They were also eliminated in the third round of 2014 World Cup qualification with just one win in six games.

Katanec blamed the lack of opportunities for UAE strikers in local clubs for the results, with foreign strikers often given precedence. Now Ali, who earned promotion to head coach having led the Under-23s to the London 2012 Olympics, believes he has a solution to the senior team’s goal drought.

“There have been many negatives in recent years regarding the UAE national team. But I need time to change this,” said Ali. “I don’t have a magic wand to change everything at once. It will take time to build a strong side.

“I hope we can pass a rule that states each club should start with at least one Emirati up front in 70 per cent of all league games, so UAE strikers get the chance to play regularly.”

For forthcoming friendlies against Japan on September 6 and Kuwait on September 11, Ali said he had picked a mix of Olympic and first team players, but he added the door was always open to anyone who shone in the league, provided they had adequate game time.

“My aim is to reach the 2015 Asia Cup and build a strong side ready for 2018 World Cup qualification,” Mahdi added. “January’s Gulf Cup in Bahrain will be good preparation for the Asia Cup.”

Ali also announced a further three friendlies against Australia, Bahrain and Slovenia on October 12 and 16 and November 14 respectively.


UAE squad to play Japan and Kuwait

Saad Suror, Abdul Aziz Haikal, Abdul Aziz Sangoor, Esmail Al Hammadi, Ahmad Khalil (all Al Ahli), Yousuf Jaber, Mohammad Fawzi, Amer Abdul Rahman (all Bani Yas), Ali Khusaif, Khalid Eissa, Khamis Esmail, Ali Mabkhoot (all Al Jazira), Waleed Abbas (Al Shabab), Mohammad Ahmad, Dawood Suliaman, Esmail Ahmad, Omar Abdul Rahman, Ali Al Wuhaibi (all Al Ain), Habib Al Fardan (Al Nasr), Hamdan Al Kamali, Esmail Matar, Saeed Al Kuthairi (all Al Wahda), Rashid Eissa (Al Wasl).