Josef Hickersberger, the former Al Wahda coach, has made a shock return to Bahrain to take charge of the national team. The Austrian, who left the Abu Dhabi club last month after leading them to the 2009/10 Pro League title, first coached Bahrain in 1996. "The job offer from Bahrain was a surprise and it's a two-year contract that will be reviewed according to the team's performances," said Hickersberger, 62, the former Austria and Rapid Vienna manager, when contacted at his home in Austria yesterday.
"I had a few offers from other clubs in the region, but this one wasn't on the radar. "I had worked with the organisation that runs football in the country for two years and didn't take much time to decide where I will be heading. I accepted it as a challenge." Hickersberger said he was first approached by the Bahrain Football Association earlier this week, and then officials flew to Vienna to complete the deal.
Hickersberger will lead Bahrain at the Gulf Cup in Yemen from November 22 to December 4, followed by the Asian Cup to be held in Qatar from January 7 to 29, where Bahrain are drawn against South Korea, India and Australia in Group C. The UAE will also compete in both tournaments. "There is not much time before the two competitions but it's OK for me. I know the life and the football in Bahrain to adapt very quickly," added Hickersberger, who has also coached the Austrian national team.
"I am fortunate to take over a pretty decent squad. "They were very unlucky to miss out on the World Cup finals twice in 2006 and 2010. So we'll see how best we can go about our work, starting from the two upcoming tournaments." Hickersberger begins work on July 1 and will draw up a schedule starting with a conditioning camp in Bahrain before flying out to Europe for a training camp. "It's been cold and raining all the time back home and I am looking forward to the sunshine," he added.
"I had a pretty good break spending time with my family and I had the opportunity to watch some of the World Cup friendlies played in Austria and had the opportunity to meet the England team and the manager Fabio Capello. "Now I have a new job and life has suddenly taken another turn. I am busy again preparing for a move outside Austria." Hickersberger succeeds Milan Macala, the Czech, who left the Bahrain job after failing to qualify for South Africa following a two-legged play-off defeat to New Zealand last November.