x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Katanec is smiles better

The Slovenian is unveiled as the new manager of the UAE football team and sets his sights on winning the Asian Cup.

The new manager Srecko Katanec has high hopes for the UAE despite a disappointing World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign.
The new manager Srecko Katanec has high hopes for the UAE despite a disappointing World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign.

DUBAI // Srecko Katanec was last night unveiled as the new manager of the UAE football team - and immediately set his sights on winning the Asian Cup. The Slovenian replaces Dominique Bathenay, the Frenchman whose contract was not renewed after his side finished bottom of the final Asian qualifying round for the World Cup. "I know the results have not been good, So my efforts will be towards changing that. I will try my best to change the results and bring the smiles back on the face of the UAE football fans," said Katanec, who has agreed a two-year contract.

"This is a new experience for me as a coach and have really been encouraged by the support that I have got from the officials here. "They have shown a lot of faith in me and were persistent during the negotiations. That gives me a lot of confidence going forward." Katanec's first competitive match in charge will be in January, an Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia. "I have already drawn up my programme for that game," he said.

"We will be playing six friendly matches before Malaysia and these matches will put us on the right path for the future." Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the UAE Football Association, welcomed the coach and said his positive attitude during the negotiations had convinced them. "When we were talking to him, he promised not just to take UAE to the Asian Cup final, but also win it, that showed a lot of confidence and convinced us that we could not have a better man for the job," he said.

"There is no obligation on him to win the Asian Cup or anything else. We just hope he will be able to take UAE football forward." Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was also in the frame, but the FA decided that his wage demands were too high. "Scolari's excessive demands were a barrier," said al Rumaithi. "He wanted €5 million (Dh25.4m) , which is a significant amount if you consider what other managers get in Europe."

Katanec will have plenty of time to get used to the country and plan his strategies as the UAE will not be playing till January next year, when they host Malaysia in a 2011 Asian Cup qualifier. He was in Dubai earlier this month, watching the Whites in action against Germany and South Korea, and the evidence from those two games suggests plenty of hard work ahead. They finished their final round of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup with just a single point, losing seven of their eight group games.

The 45-year-old was the coach of the Republic of Macedonia national football team before stepping down in April following mixed results in 2010 World Cup qualifying. A dispute with one of Macedonia's biggest stars, Goran Pandev, was also cited as one of the reasons for his quitting. Previously, Katanec guided Slovenia to the 2000 European Championship and the 2002 World Cup. He was also a well known player during his times and has a closet full of trophies. He won the Yugoslav championships with Dinamo Zagreb in 1985 and Partizan Belgrade in 1987. He moved to the Bundesliga in 1988 and reached the Uefa Cup final with Vfb Stuttgart in 1989. After a season in Germany, he joined Sampdoria in Italy and won the European Cup Winners' Cup in his first season there. He won the Scudetto in 1991 and reached the Champions League final next year. He also won the Coppa Italia with Sampdoria in 1994 before announcing his retirement as a player. With the Yugoslav national team, he won the bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and took part in the 1984 European Championships in France and the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

arizvi@thenational.ae