Al-Wahda Sports Club
© AFP

The Past
Al Wahda Sports Club was officially formed in 1984 following a merger of Abu Dhabi clubs, and just one year later, the new side won the Al Etihad ‘Union’ Cup. The first of four league titles followed in 1999, before the club secured the UAE President Cup in 2000 and a UAE Super Cup win two years later. In 1999, the Abu Dhabi team made their first appearance in the Asian Cup Winners Cup, falling at the first hurdle, but their best-ever performance in the AFC Champions League followed in 2007, when they reached the semi-finals.

The Present
After a barren spell of five years, Al Wahda once again claimed top spot in the UAE League in 2010, this time under the guidance of Austrian coach Josef Hickersberger. The Brazilian trio of Fernando Baiano, Magrao and Pinga also played a huge part, with Baiano and Pinga scoring 30 goals between them, more than half the team’s total. Al Wahda’s title triumph ensured they become only the second team from the UAE to play in the FIFA Club World Cup. They follow in the footsteps of Al Ahli, and the Abu Dhabi club will be hoping to go further than their Dubai-based rivals, who were knocked out in the first round last year.

The Future
After winning the league title, Hickersberger decided to part company with the club to take up the post of Bahrain manager. The club enlisted Romanian Laszlo Boloni as coach, and he makes a return to the Emirates having previously coached Al Jazira. Boloni hopes to lead his new charges to success in the FIFA Club World Cup and at their recent training camp in Germany said: “This has been a positive experience. There is still some work to be done in spite of the team’s success. It was good to play two or three top-class sides and this will help the players to be ready for the Club World Cup.”

Facts and Figures
Former Stars
Younis Mahmoud, Kalusha Bwalya, Javad Nekounam, Hany Ramzy, Nadir Lamyaghri, Alecsandro, Paulo Sergio, Phil Masinga.

Key players
Hamdan Al Kamali, Mohamed Al Shehhi, Ismail Matar, Abdulrahim Jumaa, Haider Ali, Fernando Baiano, Magrao.

Qualification statistics
Al Wahda sealed the UAE title with a 3-0 success over Al Sharjah in the penultimate match, during a campaign in which they notched up a record 19 wins. The Maroon and Whites remained unbeaten at home, with both defeats coming on the road to Al Jazira and Al Wasl, and they only drew once all season. Despite this record they did not boast a particularly prolific attack, scoring only 42 goals, but their defence was outstanding, conceding just 15 times across 22 games.

The numbers game
7 - Al Wahda finished the season with seven straight wins and did not drop a single point for two months. During this period they conceded just two goals and scored 17. Their Brazilian striker Baiano hit five of these and finished second top scorer in the league.