x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Al Nasr will not fall for one-upmanship among Dubai clubs

Manager Obaid happy to see big foreign names but does not count Maradona's Al Wasl as a rival for title.

Walter Zenga, right, is guiding Al Nasr's fortunes.
Walter Zenga, right, is guiding Al Nasr's fortunes.

DUBAI // Khalid Obaid, the team manager of Al Nasr, is happy for their Dubai neighbours to steal the limelight so that the UAE's oldest club can focus on doing things their way.

Nasr, established in 1945, are one of five Dubai-based teams in the top flight. In the past two summers, rivals Al Ahli and Al Wasl have garnered headlines with high profile recruits.

In 2010, Ahli signed Fabio Cannavarro, the Italian former World Player of the Year, and then this summer Wasl appointed Diego Maradona, possibly the greatest player ever, as manager.

"I know the other Dubai teams are perhaps more famous outside the UAE, but we have a certain way of doing things and that is OK with us," said Obaid, whose team also compete with Dubai club and Al Shabab for attention in the emirate.

Nasr are coached by a legend of their own - the Italian goalkeeping great Walter Zenga - and Obaid pointed out that the club have been trendsetters in looking to farther shores.

"What I would say is that we were bringing foreign clubs here 25 years ago. We were the first to invite Liverpool, Tottenham [Hotspur], [Glasgow] Celtic, Arsenal and Santos of Brazil. That should not be forgotten," said Obaid.

"These great teams played at our ground and we are very proud to be the first UAE club to organise anything like this."

Big-name appointments, and the attention that comes with them, can only be good for UAE football, said Obaid. "Now the other teams bring Maradona, for example, and he is a legend," he said. "It's great we have important international names here."

Despite the arrival of the Argentine, Obaid, whose team finished third in 2010/11, does not see Wasl as title challengers this season. "I would say Al Nasr, of course, Al Ahli, Al Jazira, Al Wahda, Al Shabab and Al Ain.

"But not Al Wasl this season. I think they will be so-so. I think the winner comes from these six and I hope it is us."

Mark Bresciano, the summer signing, misses the opener at Al Ain on Sunday with a hamstring injury, and faces the rest of the month on the sidelines, but Obaid believes the Australian is going to make up for the lost time.

"It is a shame Mark misses the first league game as we have not lost our opening Pro League fixture for three years," he said.

"But he will be a great signing for us. He is the complete midfielder. Mark will protect the defence, make passes and he has a fantastic long-range shot, which maybe we have been missing."