x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Super Cup: Downbeat Al Ain coach insists mood is normal

Do not mind Cosmin Olaroiu. The Al Ain coach's state, Paul Radley says, is that of perpetual grumpiness. "I am always worried about something before every game," he says.

Al Ain's head coach Cosmin Olaroiu has plenty on his mind – Al Ain still have the Asian roster spot to fill and he hasn't had as much time working his team out as he would have liked. Did we mention there's also the Super Cup match against Al Jazira on Monday night?
Al Ain's head coach Cosmin Olaroiu has plenty on his mind – Al Ain still have the Asian roster spot to fill and he hasn't had as much time working his team out as he would have liked. Did we mention there's also the Super Cup match against Al Jazira on Monday night?

DUBAI // The start of the new season is usually a time of joyful anticipation among the football fraternity. Judging by his demeanour at the Zabeel Stadium on Sunday, on the eve of Monday night's curtain-raising Super Cup final, Cosmin Olaroiu did not get the memo.

The manager of the Pro League champions Al Ain is currently vexed by a variety issues, and he was not trying too hard to hide it ahead of the encounter with Al Jazira, their Abu Dhabi rivals.

First there was the fact he had to attend a morning news conference when training had been scheduled for the evening.

"Have respect for my job," he said.

There is also still no resolution to the issue of the empty berth for an Asian overseas player in the Al Ain squad.

"I only train the team, that is the only answer I can give you," he said, when asked who would be coming in to complement Al Ain's existing foreign contingent of Asamoah Gyan, Mirel Radoi and Jires Kembo-Ekoko.

Then there is the fact he has had barely any time, he said, to work with his leading players since the culmination to their triumphant campaign last term.

"During four months, I have seen him for two days," Olaroiu said about the fitness or otherwise of Omar Abdulrahman, the young playmaker who spent much of the summer in the UK, impressing first at the Olympics, then while on trial at Manchester City.

Superficially, Olaroiu's downbeat welcome for the new season could be seen as an attempt to play down expectations on his champion side. Or it could just be his natural way. His teams seem to benefit from the siege mentality of their manager.

Al Ain took the title last season, but the headline of the campaign was his long-running feud with Diego Maradona. By the end, the Argentine great refused to shake his hand, so ill-enamoured was he by it all.

Olaroiu acknowledged that grumpy can often be his default state before matches at the best of times.

"I am always worried about something before every game; this is normal," he said. "If we can find the right motivation, we can win this match."

For all of his opposite number's one-downmanship, Paulo Bonamigo, the new Jazira manager, insists Al Ain, who won the Super Cup in 2009, should still be considered the team to beat.

"Al Ain have kept the same base of players from last season and we respect them a lot," Bonamigo said.

"We are expecting a very tough match and we have to be at a high level straight away."

pradley@thenational.ae

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