DUBAI // Ioan Andone, the new Al Ahli coach, says retaining the Pro League title will be his top priority, with success in Asia a close second. The Romanian was given the job after Ivan Hasek returned home to contest elections for the chairmanship of the Czech Football Association. Hasek, who won the elections comfortably and later took over the dual responsibility of coaching the struggling national team through the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, spent 18 months with Ahli and won the President's Cup, Super Cup and the inaugural Pro League title.
Andone, 49, who won a stunning Romanian league and cup double with CFR Cluj in 2008, is determined to keep the trophies coming in. "I want to win the league, that is my top goal," said Andone, who was the coach at Saudi Arabian club Al Ettifaq last season. "We also want to put up a good show in the Fifa Club World Cup. I want very good results in the AFC Champions League as well. So for me, these are the top three objectives for next year."
Since the UAE league started in 1973, only four clubs have been able to defend their title successfully. Ahli did it in 1976, Al Nasr in 1979, Al Wasl in 1983 and Al Ain, who won three on the trot, from 2002 to 2004 "Defending your title is always difficult," added Andone. "The other teams will be a lot more determined and your own fans want more wins and trophies. My job will be to help the players cope with the pressure and make them mentally strong.
"That will be the most important task. They already have quality and showed it in winning the title." firstname.lastname@example.org