Dubai: Dutchman Bert van Marwijk landed in Dubai on Wednesday to sign on as the new coach of the UAE national football side.
The former Saudi Arabia and Netherlands boss, 66, who was replaced as Australia coach by Graham Arnold at the end of the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, is scheduled to attend the UAE’s friendly match against Saudi Arabia at 5.45pm on Thursday at Al Wahda’s Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The national team is currently being overseen by Saleem Abdul Rahman, who was Alberto Zaccheroni’s assistant. Zaccheroni’s last game in charge was the hosts’ dismal 4-0 rout at the hands of Qatar in the semi-final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup earlier this year.
According to a UAE Football Association official who didn’t want to be named, van Marwijk was among a handful of candidates in the running for the top-most post with the UAE football team.
Among the list was 50-year-old Frenchman Herve Renard — who is currently with the Morocco national team — Al Wahda’s 64-year-old Dutch coach Henk ten Cate, and former Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic, who now manages the Croatia national team.
Renard has made a name for himself while becoming the only coach to win two Africa Cup of Nations — the 2012 edition with Zambia and the 2015 edition with Ivory Coast. However, obtaining his services for the UAE proved to be tough, partly due to the clauses in his existing contract with the Moroccan Football Association and his reported links to take over the Iranian national side.
Ten Cate, on the other hand, has an existing contract with The Clarets who are next scheduled to play Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the final of the Arabian Gulf Cup at the Hazzan Bin Zayed Stadium at 8.30pm, on Friday.
Dalic, who spent three seasons with Al Ain from 2014 to 2017, is in a comfortable position after leading Croatia into the final of the 2018 Fifa World Cup where they lost to eventual champions France.
“We had to choose wisely and well,” the official from the UAE FA, said. “We had to put the result of the Asian Cup behind us and start looking at the future with the qualifying rounds of the 2022 Fifa World Cup starting in September. The UAE FA may have taken some time before narrowing down on a name to be the next coach for the national team, but this also means that a lot of effort has gone into making the right choice.”
Perhaps, what tilted the scales in favour of Van Marwijk’s appointment for the UAE is his communication skills in English along with his better experience of football in the Gulf region. After taking over as the coach in August 2015, van Marwijk led Saudi Arabia to their fifth World Cup in Russia last year. But the Dutch coach stepped aside at the last minute and took over the reins with the Socceroos in Russia.
Van Marwijk is expected to spend the next few days in the UAE, during which time he will sign a contract with the UAE FA. The Dutchman is set to take full command of his new assignment only after the UAE’s friendly match against Syria in Abu Dhabi, on March 26.