x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Mariano Donda will lead youth movement at Al Wasl

After coming back from a serious injury, Argentine Mariano Donda is optimistic his club can improve but they must be patient, writes John McAuley.

Because of a knee injury, Mariano Donda played in only five matches for Al Wasl last season. Jaime Puebla / The National
Because of a knee injury, Mariano Donda played in only five matches for Al Wasl last season. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // Mariano Donda says Al Wasl must be patient with their emergent batch of young stars as the Dubai club look to build for the long term.

The Argentine midfielder has been training with his teammates for the past two weeks ago, having fully recovered from a serious knee injury that in December curtailed his 2012/13 campaign.

Much has changed at Wasl in that time, with the club appointing two managers before installing Laurent Banide, the former Al Dhafra coach, in May.

The foreign contingent has been remodelled, too, with Emiliano Alfaro, Achille Emana, Ahmed Ibrahim and Jussie – the four expatriates employed for the second half of the season – released in favour of Kaio, the Brazilian striker; and Milan Susak, an Australian signed from Iran's Sepahan.

Wasl are still pursuing a fourth player to complement a trio that now includes the physically sound Donda, although the club's board, itself in position since April, has placed an emphasis on developing and promoting youth-team players. A "10-year plan" has been cited.

Wasl's supporters, though, are among the most demanding in the country, and they will expect a considerable improvement on the results of the past two seasons. The Zabeel Stadium side have finished eighth, then ninth.

The pressure is sure to build as September's Arabian Gulf League opener against Sharjah draws nearer. Donda, however, says the rebuilt team, personified by the impressive Fahad Hadeed, 19, must be allowed to settle into their stride.

"This is a young team, as the committee decided to give the possibility to players already at the club, so we must take care in this and be professional," Donda said. "We must start well – this is very important – but the young players need time.

"We have to realise they will make mistakes, which they must do to learn from them. So it's vital for us to help them and for the foreign players to always give 100 per cent."

Donda is optimistic he is capable of contributing significantly, having finally put behind him last season's injury nightmare.

The playmaker, 31, recruited by Diego Maradona in the summer of 2011, featured in five matches after sustaining damage to his right knee during training in October, and had surgery in Qatar in January before embarking on a prolonged rehabilitation.

He credits his convalescence to Rene Cavilli, the Dubai-based Italian physiotherapist, who worked with Donda from November and then provided the personal training regimen that has ensured the player could prepare for the new term in optimum condition.

"This is my third year here, so I'd like to give everything to this club because it's important to me," he said. "I'd like to prove what I can do and show on the pitch the effort I put into my rehabilitation. I say all the time that the pitch tells all, and I want to give the committee everything in this new season."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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