DUBAI // Mariano Donda, the Al Wasl captain, says his side will be inspired by the memory of Bruno Metsu as they attempt to get their season back on track against Al Shabab on Saturday.
The former UAE and Senegal manager had only recently taken over as the full-time successor to Diego Maradona when the Frenchman was diagnosed with cancer last year.
Metsu lost his battle with the disease earlier this week; he died at a clinic in Coudekerque-Village, his hometown in northern France.
Donda said Metsu remained in close contact with his final club until as recently as two weeks ago, and the Argentine midfielder says his side want to return to winning ways for him.
“We have lost a big man,” Donda said. “He was my coach for only four months but he still brought so much value.
“He was near the team until two weeks ago. We want to try to win for him and his family, and we know he will be watching from up there.”
According to Laurent Banide, the current Wasl coach, sadness has pervaded the Dubai club since news of Metsu’s passing reached them this week.
“Everybody has been very sad, the people that did deal with him last year and even those who didn’t,” Banide said.
“We were all his colleagues, I had a good relationship with him and we all miss him so much.
“It is not just the players, but the whole staff, from the coaches to the medical staff and the administration. Everyone is feeling sad at Al Wasl.”
Over the course of the international break, Banide has been tasked with trying to raise a misfiring side whom he accused of lacking spirit after consecutive League Cup defeats.
They are still handily placed in the Arabian Gulf League, though, lying in third after three matches, and Banide hopes their supporters will turn out to help rally the side against Shabab.
Their Arabian Gulf League fixture kicks off at the same time (5pm) as Canada and Austria meet across the city at Al Ahli’s home ground. That Under 17 World Cup encounter is followed immediately by Iran against Argentina.
Banide acknowledges the clash in schedules is less than ideal, but accepts the situation as part of putting on a World Cup.
“It is a problem,” the Frenchman said. “I would prefer it if the matches weren’t at the same time but this is a World Cup and we can’t do anything about it.
“It is an important event and an honour that the matches are in the UAE. If there was more of a gap more people could come to watch the football.”
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE