Maybe it was simply said in the heat of the moment, when the blood was still boiling, when emotions, as they tend to do in times like those, got the better of him.
Or maybe there was substance to it; that, yes, it was thick with rage, but rooted in truth, too, borne out from a frustration that in turn dragged to the surface genuine disgruntlement with life at Al Ahli.
Cosmin Olaroiu’s unexpected outburst following Friday night’s draw with Baniyas has thrown his future into uncertainty and, with it, Ahli’s as well. The finest coach in the country, if not the region, if not the continent, may not be theirs for much longer, the glow of a second UAE top-flight title in three years fading as Olaroiu walks off into the sunset.
“I work where I am appreciated,” he said Friday, through a translator and without taking questions, minutes after being sent off yet again as Ahli manager. “In three years we did great things: two Super Cups, two leagues, the Arabian Gulf Cup and four finals.
“I hope whoever is replacing me does well at Al Ahli and I hope the club does well after me.”
With that, Olaroiu was off, leaving his future subject to conjecture, leaving Ahli’s officials with little to offer in response, other than that they are planning for more success with their success-guarantor coach.
And that is just it: with Olaroiu at the helm, Ahli are as sure a thing as you get to keeping the good times rolling. That is why their supporters are right to be concerned; that is why the club must make sure this was merely a knee-jerk reaction to another confrontation with a referee, a referee whose performance prompted the backlash, however ill-advised Olaroiu’s actions were.
By the time he faced the media, Olaroiu was clearly still upset, still emotional from what had just transpired. Perhaps he was just exasperated that his team seemed to be playing the officials and not just Baniyas, his patience wearing thin, his buttons pushed once more.
Even so, the rumours swirled. Olaroiu will return to Saudi Arabia, they said, since his stock remains high there after his time at Al Hilal. Some even claimed the Romanian was set for Al Jazira, to help lift the capital club above Ahli and Al Ain, his current and former employers, two clubs that have benefitted from the Cult of Cosmin.
For that is almost what it is. Olaroiu demands everything from his players, complete control and total trust, but such is his power of personality that it is given almost without exception. The results follow, as do the accolades and the acclaim.
Should there be any validity to his comments, Ahli must do everything to persuade Olaroiu to stay. With another UAE championship secure – he has four in five seasons – and another President’s Cup final a real possibility, Ahli are primed to dominate.
They return to the Asian Champions League next year, where they possess the talent and now the experience to better November’s final defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande.
Continue this summer to invest in the squad as they have done during the past 18 months, and Ahli can justifiably make the continental competition their priority.
Thus, keeping Olaroiu represents the immediate primary issue. Conceivably, Ahli are not going to find anyone more suited to this club, to this group of players, to these individuals. The reasons for him to remain appear obvious: the division’s best foreign contingent, its highest collection of UAE internationals, two years left on a lucrative contract, a supportive board.
The reasons to go not so much, although Olaroiu will not appreciate releasing much of his squad for much of pre-season to the national team, as Mahdi Ali prepares for the upcoming World Cup campaign. The Chinese Super League, too, has apparently made known its interest in acquiring his services, and could certainly trump his salary at Ahli.
Yet Project Ahli is not complete; it has not run its course. Olaroiu is intelligent enough to understand that, Ahli are smart enough to reinforce it. A continuation seems the most plausible outcome from Friday’s outburst.
Undeniably, that is best for both parties.
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