Football: Al Dhafra recruit for play-offs
ABU DHABI // Al Dhafra have signalled their intent ahead of the Pro League play-offs next month by fortifying their squad with 14 new signings.
Dhafra face Sharjah in the first of their play-off matches on September 4 in Al Ain and will be also vying with Emirates and Al Shaab for the two spots in the 14-team league next season.
To prepare for the round-robin competition, Dhafra have recruited the Jumaa brothers, Abdulsalam and Abdulraheem, the goalkeeper Khalid Saif Al Senani from Al Jazira and Mohammed Qasim and Saif Mohammed from Al Ahli and Al Ain respectively.
Abdulsalam Jumaa, the veteran midfielder, said he was persuaded to extend his career by another year by Dhafra's executives.
"I had decided to retire after my time at Jazira," said Jumaa, 35.
"Then I get this offer from Dhafra which was more like to lend a hand to this team to regain their place in the Pro League.
"They came to me with their plans and persuaded me to carry on playing for them for just one more season, so I agreed. I hope, as a team, we can fulfil the club's objectives."
Dhafra have also plundered Al Ain for five loan players (Hazza Salem, Hadaf Al Ameri, Hamad Rage Al Ahbabi, Bandar Al Ahbabi and Hamad Al Marri) and signed four from Al Khaleej, the Division One club.
The club is at an advanced stage of negotiations to sign a third foreigner to complement Makhete Diop, the Senegalese forward, and Pinga, the Brazilian midfielder.
Dzemal Hadziabdic, the coach, now faces the onerous task of turning Dhafra into a cohesive unit.
"Indeed, it is big challenge but we have an experienced coach … and have a lot of confidence in him to turn them into a winning unit," said Mussalam Al Ameri, the chairman of the club's board of directors.
"We have a fine blend of experience and youth from the new signings."
Hadziabdic is no stranger to the UAE, having coached Al Ain in 2002 and Al Shabab in 2004/2005.
The Bosnian has spent two decades in the region, starting with Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia in 1992, two spells in charge of Qatar, and later with the Qatari clubs Al Wakrah, Qatar SC, and Al Sailiya.
Dhafra will warm up for the play-offs by lining up in a friendly tournament from Friday to August 12 against Ismaily, of Egypt, Al Seeb, of Oman, and Libya's Al Ahly.
"We have left no stones unturned to return to the Pro League," Al Ameri said.
"The tournament will provide the opportunity for the coach to work out the combinations and have them ready for the play-off."
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