DUBAI // No wonder Saleem Abdelrahman looked so pleased to be addressing his first press briefing as Al Wasl manager, however temporary his occupation of the position will be.
A graduate of the club’s academy - he joined 30 years ago, aged five - the Emirati represented the Zabeel Stadium first team at aged 17 before finishing his playing career in 2002.
Having obtained his Fifa-approved A Licence, in 2007 Abdelrahman became head coach of Wasl’s Under 17s and spent some time learning the trade as a member of the UAE national team’s backroom staff.
Promoted this summer as assistant coach to Laurent Banide, he now finds himself as mentor to a team in flux, eighth in the Arabian Gulf League and with a tricky away tie at Ajman on Friday.
He would not want it any other way.
“Sure, this is a heavy task, but since I was five years old Al Wasl has been my second home,” Abdelrahman said. “This no an easy mission, but I’m going to work, work, work.
“It’s a real chance and if I’m not going to take it I should apologise to the board for accepting it. Obviously I will put all my efforts to make this opportunity work. I hope I will get the chance to continue all season.”
Whether or not he is here for the long-term remains to be seen. Wasl have already begun the process of finding a more permanent replacement for Banide, the Frenchman who was dismissed on Sunday following a mixed beginning to the 2013/14 campaign.
Presently, Abdelrahman’s designation is interim manager, although he spoke like a man intent of remaining there past this weekend’s fixture. Despite the tender years, he sounded like a coach of significant experience, too, and trotted out the typical lines about solidarity during testing times; of players displaying a bravery to recover from their current situ.
“There is courage because the players I have are fighters, real fighters,” Abdelrahman said. “I’m happy that, with the chemistry in the team, we’ll pass through all these difficulties.
“I’ve been with the team since the start of the season, not only right now. We’ll use everything available to us: the equipment, the facilities, the fans, the board. We’ll all be together.
“It’s my dream to send every happiness to all the Al Wasl fans and to see everyone connected to the club celebrating together and standing shoulder to shoulder.”