x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Josef Hickersberger 'eager to start again' as Al Wahda coach

Dismissal of Branko Ivankovic precedes a third stint at the Abu Dhabi club for the Austrian with the goal being to win the President's Cup.

Josef Hickersberger is back at Al Wahda for a third stint in charge.
Josef Hickersberger is back at Al Wahda for a third stint in charge.

Josef Hickersberger is taking over as Al Wahda coach for the third time, tasked in preparing the team for the President’s Cup semi-final against Al Shabab on May 5.

“I was asked if I would be interested to take the job at Wahda for the remainder of the season and I accepted it,” the 65-year-old Austrian said in a telephone conversation before boarding a plane from Vienna yesterday.

Hickersberger was expected to arrive this morning and get to work immediately after Wahda parted company with Branko Ivankovic following a string of poor results.

“This was not something that I expected,” Hickersberger said. “I haven’t been doing a great deal of work since I left Wahda, but I am very eager to start again.

“Apart from watching matches back home and visiting the UAE three times on holidays, I haven’t been involved in any kind of work since I left Wahda at the end of last season. I watched a few matches during my visits and know a little bit about the teams this season. I watched a couple of matches Shabab played and they are a good side.

“It is not an easy task I have been entrusted, but I shall do my best. I know the local players well because I have been working with them for a long time, but I know none of the foreigners. Hopefully, they can adapt with my work as quickly as possible.

“It is also refreshing for me to come after a break and I believe the change may also revive and motivate the players.”

Hickersberger is aware the President’s Cup is the only trophy Wahda can win. They are seventh in the league table and lost in the Etisalat Cup semi-finals.

“The reason Wahda has got me down is with an objective to win the Cup and that would be my task, as well. Hopefully, we can pull it off,” he said.

Hickersberger first arrived at Wahda in late 2008, as a replacement for the Egyptian Ahmed Abdul Halim.

The Austrian, one of the rare men to both play and coach his national team in the World Cup, took them to fourth place in the league. He received a contract extension and led Wahda to their fourth league title, in 2010.

He left Wahda at the end of the season to become the national team coach of Bahrain, but was back after the Brazilian Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, popularly known as Tite, quit after one month to return to Corinthians in his native Brazil.

Hickersberger replaces Ivankovic, who was dismissed after the team’s third consecutive league defeat and 11th in 23 games. The Croat was in the first year of a two-year deal and his last game in charge was a 4-3 home defeat to Ajman on Friday.

“It reached a point where Branko was unable to motivate the players and the management decided not to take any more chances, as we only have one title to play for now,” said Khaled Awadh, the assistant chief executive officer of the club.

“Hickersberger worked with a majority of the players and he was the only coach willing to take up a short-term job. He doesn’t guarantee us the cup, but it is worth a try.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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