Hickersberger back to steady ship
ABU DHABI // Josef Hickersberger has been charged with the task of masterminding Al Wahda's challenge at the Club World Cup and mounting the defence of their Pro League title after agreeing yesterday to rejoin the club as manager.
The Austrian resigned from his post as national coach of Bahrain to return to the Abu Dhabi club he led to the championship last year.
The 63-year-old left in the summer after failing to negotiate a new contract. But after Laszlo Boloni, his replacement, was sacked and Boloni's replacement, Tite, returned to Brazil after just 45 days in charge, Wahda have turned to their former manager to steady the ship.
"Hickersberger is returning on a new contract," Khaled Awadh, Al Wahda's deputy chief executive, said.
"He has cleared the technical issues from the Bahrain Football Association [FA] and will arrive in a day or two.
"We didn't want him to leave in the first place. It was his decision at that time, but we are happy that he has decided to return, and we hope he will have the same success, or even more, because this is a team that he had built over 18 months."
Hickersberger will not be in the dugout tonight for the trip to Sharjah - Hatem Souissi, the Tunisian caretaker coach, will be in charge - but is expected to be at the helm for the home match against Al Shabab on October 27.
Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the vice president of the Bahrain FA, admitted Hickersberger's decision to leave came as a surprise.
"He decided to terminate his contract with the Bahrain FA,'' he told ESPN Soccernet Global yesterday. "It was a surprising decision for us and the coach has put us in a difficult situation as we have forthcoming campaigns in the Gulf Cup and Asian Cup."
Hickersberger will now be focused on ensuring fourth-placed Wahda keep pace with the league leaders, Al Wasl, who are four points ahead, and instilling confidence ahead of the Club World Cup in the capital starting on December 8.
Following Al Ahli's toothless defeat against Auckland City, the New Zealand part-timers, in last year's competition, Wahda will be under pressure from the FA to perform well. Hickersberger will also have one eye on the Asian Champions League next year.
"We had some success under Hickersberger, who is one of the coaches to have got on well with the players and earned their respect," Awadh said. "I wish he will have more success, now that he has decided to return."
Sharjah v Al Wahda, 8pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 1 & Dubai Sports 1
Al Nasr v Al Ahli
Finishing in the top four at the end of his three-month contract is the main goal for Eid Baroot, the caretaker coach of Al Nasr. His first game after taking over from Helio dos Anjos, the Brazilian, was a 2-0 defeat last week to Al Wahda, the Pro League champions. His second is tonight’s home clash with Al Ahli. “It’s all big games we are left with, but we must win these big games,” said Baroot.
• 5.05pm, Al Maktoum Stadium
Sharjah v Al Wahda
Al Wahda travel to Sharjah under Hatem Souissi, the caretaker coach, in what promises to be an exciting game. “It’s a matter of continuing with the work we have been doing in the past week and get the players focused on the game,” said Souissi. “They are an experienced lot and surely know how to handle the situation we are in.” Wahda have been impressive in the past two games, beating Dubai 5-0 and Nasr 2-0, and Souissi will want to keep that momentum going until handing over to Josef Hickersberger.
• 8.00pm, Sharjah Stadium
Dubai v Baniyas
Baniyas travel with their tails up after a thumping 3-0 home win over Al Ain. They are third in the table on 12 points and will be looking to Andre Senghor, the Senegalese forward, to continue terrorising the opposition with his outstanding goalscoring performances. Senghor has been on the mark in every game and is the leading scorer in the Pro League with eight goals. He has forged a brilliant partnership with Fawzi Basheer, the Oman international forward, and the Emiratis Theyab Awana and Amer Abdulrahman, the Olympic team players.
• 5.05pm, Dubai Stadium