Jorge Luis Pinto reacts during a match. File
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
The UAEFA ended the weeks of speculation by formally announcing the appointment of globe-tottering Colombia’s Jorge Luis Pinto as the new UAE national team coach on Monday through their Twitter account.
The appointment of Pinto did not come as a surprise as the talks were rife well before the formal announcement. The hexagenerian’s primary task will be to see the UAE through to the next round of the joint qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
UAE exuded their confidence in the experienced coach, who accepted the challenge of taking the UAE to the next round and keep their slim hopes alive.
Even before coming to the UAE, Pinto has started his homework like scanning the profiles of the players as a part of the preparations for his new mission, he informed Colombian media. He has been reportedly handed a two-year contract with the option of a further extension, depending on the performance of the team.
Pinto promised to join the UAE team as soon as the travelling curbs are eased. He also vowed to leave no stone unturned to take the UAE through.
“UAE offered me the same deal two years ago but I had committed to Honduras by that time,” Pinto was quoted as saying by the Colombian media.
“But, since the offer came to me second time, I decided to take it up promptly. I am relishing the challenge of leading them in the crucial qualifiers. I would love to live up to the expectation of the people and meet the high standards set by the UAE,” he added.
UAE are in the fourth place in their group and need to win all their remaining four matches to advance to the next round of the joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.
One thing that is positive from the UAE’s point of view is that three of their four matches are at home. They will take on Malaysia on Oct.8 before travelling to Indonesia five days later. They play their last two qualifiers against Thailand and Vietnam on Nov. 12 and 17 respectively on the home turf.
Vietnam with 11 points are leading the group followed by Malaysia in second with nine points, Thailand in third with eight and UAE in the fourth spot with six.
Pinto replaces Serbian Jovan Ivanovic, who had to part ways with the mutual consent even without taking charge of the team for a single game.
In fact, it was Ivanovic, who was supposed to lead the UAE in the qualifiers before the coronavirus forced the games to be postponed indefinitely. The UAE were at a crucial point when the joint qualifiers were postponed in March after the virus wreaked havoc across the globe.
The UAE were supposed to take on Malaysia and Indonesia on March 26 and 31 respectively in home fixtures. While in the away matches, they were to face Thailand and Vietnam on June 4 and 9 respectively when the competition came to a standstill.
Pinto is currently the head coach of Millonarios, whom he made his coaching debut with almost 36 years ago. Pinto is a vastly experienced coach, having served as the manager of 23 teams – clubs and national squads – altogether.
He has been conferred many title and honours to recognise his coaching exploits. He won the Best Colombian Coach Award in 2014 after being named as the 2014 Concacaf’s coach of the year.
He also has the distinction of being the national coach of the countries like Costa Rica in 2004-05 and his native country Colombia in 2010 and before coming back to Costa Rica for his second stint in 2014.
Colombia failed to qualify for the World Cup finals in 2010 under Pinto but he had a memorable run with Costa Rica at the Brazil World Cup in 2014. They advanced to the quarter-finals, which remain their best performance till date, before eventually losing to the Netherlands, who have most number of appearances in the showpiece event albeit never won the title. He last served Honduras as national team coach.
The UAE Football Association, after assessing the situation with concerned entities, has decided to extend the suspension of football activities in the country until further notice as a precautionary measure. The decision will be reviewed after assessing the situation.
An upbeat Pinto said he is excited to be working as the new UAE coach and relishing the challenge of taking the team through to the next stage of the joint qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
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