Matar brothers on either side mourn the loss of their kin as Wahda and Jazira coaches lend sympathetic support while trying to keep focus on the squad composition.
Family comes first in Abu Dhabi’s local derby
ABU DHABI // The capital’s derby between Al Wahda and Al Jazira will have a sombre feeling as both camps return from a day of grief following the death of Ibrahim Matar, the elder brother of Wahda’s Ismail and Jazira’s Yasir.
Ibrahim, 32, died in a London hospital on Wednesday where he was undergoing treatment for kidney failure. The burial took place in Abu Dhabi the following day.
Jose Peseiro, Wahda’s new Portuguese coach, has kept open the option for Ismail to play; Jazira’s Walter Zenga has granted Yasir “as much time he wants” to be with the family.
“It is a difficult time for Ismail but should he decide to play, he has more than 48 hours to decide,” Peseiro said ahead of his first game in charge as the Wahda coach.
Zenga said: “Football is important for us. It is a derby match, too, but the family comes first. I have told Yasir to forget about football and to take all the time he wants to be with the family.”
Jazira will play tonight’s game at the Al Nahyan Stadium without Ricardo Oliveira, their Brazilian captain and forward, who is serving a one-match ban for a red card in a 3-1 defeat to Baniyas in the League Cup last week.
The ban comes into effect in the league game because the Football Association rule states the suspension has to be implemented in the next competition if the next cup game is more than 30 days away.
Zenga insisted Oliveira’s absence will not be a major setback for his team with Nelson Valdez, the Paraguay international, fully recovered from a knee injury to join the in-form Emirati international Ali Mabkhout and the Moroccan Abdelaziz Barrada in attack.
“Our team is not in one name, our team is a team. It is not Zenga, Oliveira or Mabkhout. It is Jazira,” the Italian said.
“We have a lot of players in our team who can fill any position and play without any problems. We have a lot of solutions and are not scared if somebody is not ready.”
Both coaches had three days with their full squads, after the return of their internationals and Olympic team players. “The cell phone has become a very useful device in our lives and I believe the players use this to good use to talk to those in national duty on a daily basis to know what is going on at the training at Jazira.
“I think it is a good solution under the circumstances,” Zenga said. He said he is familiar with Peseiro from when the latter worked at Rapid Bucharest in Romania and when he was the national coach of Saudi Arabia.
“We know each other quite well,” Zenga said. “I know his coaching philosophies and he knows mine as well but that makes no difference between the two teams on the pitch.
The Italian said he is impressed by Wahda’s left and right backs, Mahmoud Khamis and Eisa Ahmed, who can join the attack on either flank.
He also respects the Wahda striker Sebastian Tagliabue, whom he coached against in Saudi Arabia. “However, we don’t want to think too much of our opponents but we want to focus on our own game and play to our strength,” Zenga said.
Peseiro, who replaced the Czech Karel Jarolim a week ago, is hoping to get his campaign off to a good start.
“We want to find the formula to get this team to the top position. It has been very busy week for since I arrived,” he said. “I haven’t spent a lot of time with the team but I have a fair idea of what to do in my first game and what to expect from our opponents.
“We worked with the full squad for the last two days because seven or eight players were with the senior national team and the Olympic team. It is not a big issue, though.
Hussain Fadhel, the Kuwaiti centre back, is serving a one-match ban for three yellow cards, and the Emirati forward Mohammed Al Shehhi has been ruled out because of injury.
Al Dhafra v Al Shabab
The Dubai club are second in the league, and coach Marcos Paqueta believes a victory in the League Cup last week was a boost ahead of the match with Dhafra. “The result of our last game, even though we had no chance to progress in the cup competition, was an excellent result,” he said.
Al Nasr v Sharjah
The visitors are the surprise team of the season. Last week they booked a place in the League Cup semi-finals and they are third, on goal difference, behind Al Ahli and Shabab. Paulo Bonamigo’s promoted side have conceded only eight goals; only Ahli have been tougher to break down.
Dubai v Al Wasl
Hector Cuper will look for a positive result in his debut as Wasl’s coach. “Our goal is to try and win every match and it starts from the game against Dubai,” the Argentine said. “I have a fair idea of the team from the little time I have spent with them, and I am very hopeful.” Wasl are seventh.
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