Braga among three in the fray after Al Wahda sack manager Jose Peseiro
ABU DHABI // Abel Braga has emerged as the front-runner to take charge of Al Wahda after Jose Peseiro was fired two days after a 2-2 draw against Emirates in the Arabian Gulf League.
Braga coached Al Jazira for three years and left for his native Brazil after leading the Abu Dhabi club to a historic league and President’s Cup double in 2010/2011. He is the leading candidate of the three names shortlisted for the job, according to club sources.
Sami Al Jaber of Saudi Arabia, the director of football at Qatari club Al Arabi, and Josef Hickersberger, the Austrian who led Al Wahda to the league title in 2010 and returned twice as caretaker, are the two others.
Peseiro’s dismissal comes as a surprise after the Portuguese took them to second place in the league last season.
They are joint third with Al Shabab, only four points behind the joint leaders Al Jazira and Al Ain with 11 games to go.
Al Wahda are also to host Al Saad in the final Asian Champions League qualifying round on February 17 in Abu Dhabi.
The Qatari side prevailed over Al Riffa of Bahrain, winning 11-10 in an epic penalty shootout, with Ozeia de Paulo missing the 24th spot-kick for Riffa.
It was only last week the Wahda management supported his idea of sticking to the same foreign signings even though the club wanted to sign the Australian Tim Cahill.
Some club officials were enthusiastic about signing the former Everton man, but Peseiro apparently voiced his resistance to the idea, and Cahill last week signed with Shanghai Shenhua of China.
Ahmed Al Rumaithi, chairman of club’s board of directors, said the coach did not want the attacking midfielder.
“We discussed the matter with our coach but he wanted to continue with the same foreign combination,” Al Rumaithi said.
Yesterday, Al Rumaithi insisted the team under Peseiro was not heading in the direction the management wanted.
“They were on the decline in the last two matches,” he said. “The team wasn’t heading in the right direction. Now we have certain things planned for the team and the new coach will be announced soon.”
It seemed the result against Emirates, when they led 2-0 until the 90th minute, and the previous stalemates against Sharjah, Wasl and away to Ajman did not go well with the club management.
Peseiro was appointed in November 2013 after the club parted ways with the Czech coach Karel Jarolim only 10 games in to the 2013/2014 season.
He took them to a creditable second in the league and was given a contract extension of 12 months.
Meanwhile Majed Salem, the club’s Under-21 coach, has been tasked to lead the team on an interim basis for their next league game against Baniyas at the Al Nahyan stadium on Thursday.
“The management has asked me to prepare the team for the next match and I will do my best for a good result,” said Salem. “The advantage I have is that I know all the players.
“However, there is not much I can do in two days but just carry on playing in the same style and strategy, which is to focus in attack. We have some very experienced players and they will have to make a major contribution to make decisions on the pitch aside from playing vital roles themselves.”
Ismail Matar, the captain and forward, said they will do all they can to help the interim coach.
“It is very important for us to win this game as our objective is to win the league,” he said.
“We also want to make the fans and management happy with a good result against Baniyas and then hopefully take that momentum to next week’s Asian Champions League play-off.”
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