ABU DHABI // Josef Hickersberger's departure from Al Wahda will not alter the club's preparation for the Club World Cup (CWC) in Abu Dhabi in December. Wahda will face Hekari United of Papua New Guinea, the Oceania champions, who beat Waitakere of New Zealand 4-2 in the O-League final. Qualifying for the CWC had been Wahda's primary target from the start of the season. They achieved that goal by winning the Pro League title under Hickersberger's guidance, racking up 58 points seven more than Al Jazira, their nearest rivals.
"We are very proud to be competing with the best clubs from around the world and we are definitely looking forward to playing more than one match," said Khaled Awadh, the club's deputy chief executive officer. Wahda leave the UAE for a three-week summer camp in Germany on July 12 and Awadh added: "The preparation will be for the domestic competitions starting with the Super Cup [between Wahda and Emirate, the President's Cup winners] and the Pro League, and in between we plan to have a few friendlies arranged in the lead-up to the CWC. To play in this championship was the club's main goal and having achieved it, we want to give a good account of ourselves in the world stage."
Al Ahli, the 2008/09 Pro League champions who represented the host nation last year, were knocked out in the opening game by Auckland City, the amateur side from New Zealand, but Awadh is confident Wahda will perform much better than the Dubai side. "We are very serious and we don't want to throw away all we have done in the last two years. "We made a lot of sacrifices by concentrating in the domestic league and left no stones unturned to provide the players all the encouragement and the backing," Awadh said.
It meant some key players, such as Haider Ali, their captain, Ismail Matar, Fahad Masoud, Mohammed al Shehhi, Mahmoud Khamis and Saeed al Kathiri, were given advances on their contracts. "The chairman, Sheikh Saeed, wanted to keep the players happy and paid them up-front so they don't have to bother about the money," Awadh added. "He encouraged them even after they got beat in the two cup competitions. He told them not to worry about any other competitions, but win the league." Read our in-depth review of the Pro League season tomorrow.