Football-Ten Cate & Mamic
It has boiled down to a two-horse race between Henk ten Cate and Zoran Mamic to be the new UAE coach. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The race for the UAE’s new national football team coach is expected to be a close tussle between former Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic and Dutchman Henk ten Cate. The number of coaches in contention only increased following the sacking of Jorge Luis Pinto earlier this week.

The UAE Football Association (UAE FA) and the 67-year-old coach from Colombia agreed to an amicable parting of ways after just five months of being in-charge of the UAE national football team.

The UAE managed to play just three friendly matches under Pinto after the announcement from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup would commence only next year.

Pinto had previously led Costa Rica to the quarter-finals of the 2014 Fifa World Cup and he had been installed as the UAE’s fourth coach since January 2019. He had been hired in June this year on a contract that was scheduled to run till the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

“The replacement coach will be announced soon and he will be chosen from among three people who have previously worked in the local league,” Yousuf Hussain, Head of the UAE national teams’ committee had told media during the announcement.

UAE football team during a training
'The Whites,' as the UAE national team is known as, during a practice session last year. Image Credit: Twitter

“After long meetings with coach Pinto, we agreed that it was difficult to continue our relationship and we decided to terminate the contract,” Hussain said.

Pinto was present during the UAE playing in three friendlies – defeating Tajikistan 3-2, losing to Uzbekistan (1-2) and Bahrain (1-3). It is understood that the UAE players were not too happy with Pinto’s methods and system of play. The coach himself was not too pleased at this early departure from his post. “It was difficult to carry out my mission with the national team for several reasons, including a difference of views,” he admitted.

“I had big dreams of reaching the World Cup with the UAE and I hope it will happen with another coach. The Covid-19 pandemic further complicated my work with the players,” he added.

Pinto succeeded Serbia’s Ivan Jovanovic, who was in the job from December 2019 to April 2020, before being dismissed without even having played a single match with the team.

Alberto Zaccheroni, who led AC Milan to a Serie A title in 1999 and won the AFC Asian Cup with Japan, quit in January 2019 after leading UAE to the semi-finals of the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil.

The Italian was followed by former Dutch national coach Bert van Marwijk who lasted from March 2019 until that December when he was fired following a 2-4 loss to Qatar in the Arabian Gulf Cup.

The 49-year-old Mamic, previously with Dinamo Zagreb and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, won the first double in his very first year with Al Ain while claiming the rare double of the UAE Pro League and the UAE President’s Cup. He is currently working as the director of football at Dinamo Zagreb.

Ten Cate, meanwhile, would bring in a whole load of experience to the national squad - having worked and known many of the national team players in the UAE after spending time with Al Ahli, Al Jazira and Al Wahda. In the 2005-’06 season, ten Cate was assistant to Frank Rijkaard at FC Barcelona when the team won the Uefa Champions League and La Liga titles. He then switched over as manager of Ajax until October 2007 and won three trophies for the Dutch side.