Mahdi Ali Hassan Redha (born 20 April 1965 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates) is a retired Emirati footballer and current manager. He is currently in charge of the United Arab Emirates national football team.
From 2010 until 2012, he led the United Arab Emirates Olympic team in qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. It was the nation's very first appearance. On 15 August 2012, he was appointed as UAE's senior national team. He led the country to their third title in 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations. He also led UAE to the third-place finish in 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
Ali took up football with Al Ahli's youth sides at age six, and he progressed steadily through their system. He made his first-team debut at the age of 16 in 1983. Ali won two UAE President's Cup medallions and played a crucial role in the 1988 final against Al Shabab.
Ali was part of the national team for four years, three of them under the Brazilian, Carlos Alberto Parreira, and one year with Parreira's compatriot, Mario Zagallo. The bigger regret he has is not being able to travel to the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the UAE's only appearance in the global event. He himself said: "I was in the 1990 World Cup squad and I was left out because I suffered an injury one week before the team's departure to Italy," he said. "It was a huge disappointment for me."
His knee was too damaged to continue his career in 1992, but he traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, in the US, and the American surgeon David Caborn repaired his knee sufficiently that he played another six seasons. He retired from football in 1998.
Ali returned to football after that and has previously coached several United Arab Emirates national football teams at various age-levels. He has also managed some top-level clubs in his native country. A former midfield player of note, Ali's coaching career began in 1998 with the U10s at the Al Ahli in Dubai.
He spent a year in London with his family in 2000 and earnt a coaching certificate, and later the football association sent him to Germany for his A level certificate. The UAE FA came calling in 2008, while he was on leave from his government job in Dubai, asking him if he would coach the U19 national team.
Ali has had unprecedented success in leading what has been dubbed the "golden generation" of Emirati players, beginning with the AFC U-19 Championship in 2008 and continuing with a final-eight performance in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009 and a U23 Gulf Cup championship and a silver medal in the Asian Games.
On 7 April 2011, Baniyas appointed Ali as caretaker coach after the club parted company with Lutfi al Benzarti, who led them to promotion in 2009 and fourth in the Pro League in 2010. Baniyas were second in the league when Ali took charge and he maintained that position behind Al Jazira.
He was appointed as UAE U-23 football team coach in January 2010. Six months later, in Tashkent, the young Emiratis defeated Uzbekistan 3–2 to secure the country's first football berth in the Olympic Summer Games. The changing room was a madhouse of revelry.
For the Olympic games, Ali invited some over-23 age players like senior team captain Ismail Matar, Ismail Al Hammadi and Ali Khasif. UAE lost the first match 2–1 to Uruguay which they led the match until 42nd minute. In the next match, they faced host country Great Britain. They lost the match 3–1 and knocked out of the tournament. In the last match, they drew 1–1 with Senegal. Ali's side finished their first appearance at the Olympics in the fourth rank in their group, scoring three goals while conceding six goals. Their show was praised by Great Britain manager Stuart Pearce and Uruguay's Óscar Tabárez.
UAE national team
On 15 August 2012, he was appointed as new manager of the United Arab Emirates' senior team national team. He became the fourth non-foreign manager of the national team after replacing Abdullah Masfar. Under his management, the UAE played so well as they finished first in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualification and gained the second Gulf Cup of Nations title in 2013, after the first one of Bruno Metsu.
He led United Arab Emirates to 2015 AFC Asian Cup where they defeated Qatar and Bahrain and lost to Iran and faced Japan in quarter-final and won the match in penalties and reached to semi-finals. However, UAE lost to Australia in semi-finals and failed to progress to the final. His side defeated Iraq 3–2 in third/fourth place play-off and ended their campaign in third-place. He is also the first Emirati coach of national team in a AFC Asian Cup tournament. On 27 February 2015, he extended his contract with UAE until 2018.
On the macro level, Mahdi Ali has been determined to play football in a way that fit the talents of his squad, he would not countenance the grafting of an alien style onto native habits and preferences. He also made a point of fostering a sense of unity and community. Mahdi Ali sweats over the small stuff, he believes seemingly innocuous events can mean the difference between victory and defeat. He developed this outlook while undergoing his formal training. In outlining his management style, he described a melding of processes he learned as an executive with the Road and Transport Authority of Dubai with those he acquired on the training ground. He believes that studying champion coaches can be of great value. "I read many books and see many videos," he said. He is an admirer of Arsenal's Arsene Wenger as well as Pep Guardiola. He once spent 12 days in Barcelona, studying their systems. He met Guardiola and watched four training sessions with the first team. "In these 12 days I saw players from eight years old to the first team, going from nine in the morning to nine in the evening. I wish I could have stayed longer.", said Ali.
- As of 15 November 2016
|Al Ahli||2 November 2009||4 February 2010||12||6||1||5||24||17||+7||50.00|
|United Arab Emirates U-23||1 January 2010||12 August 2012||27||17||6||4||53||19||+34||62.96|
|United Arab Emirates||12 August 2012||Present||59||35||12||12||121||57||+64||59.32|
- President's Cup: 1988, 1996
United Arab Emirates U-19
- AFC U-19 Championship: 2008
United Arab Emirates U-23
- Asian Games silver medalists: 2010
United Arab Emirates
- Gulf Cup of Nations: 2013, third place 2014
- AFC Asian Cup third place: 2015
Mahdi Ali is of Iranian descent. His paternal grandfather was from Larestan County, located in Shiraz, Fars Province. His family moved to United Arab Emirates in 1963, two years before Ali's birthday.
After his playing days, Ali attended the HCT – Dubai Men's College where he graduated as an electrical engineer and later assisted in the design of the Dubai Metro. While working for Dubai Municipality, he helped set up the Road Transit Authority (RTA), and masterminded Dubai's parking project and the ticketing system for the Dubai Metro.