* * *
Qatari sports club Al Arabi has severed links with Iranian-German soccer player Ashkan Dejagah and Iranian professional footballer Javad Nekounam following recent changes in the board of the team which plays in the Qatar Stars League. Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Jaber al-Thani, the new president of the club, has introduced a raft of changes in the technical and administrative staff as well as the line-up of the Doha-based team ever since he took up the post and replaced Hitmi bin Ali al-Hitmi. Among the changes are parting company with 49-year-old Italian Head Coach Gianfranco Zola as well as Dejagah and Nekounam. “Zola is not a popular figure among the fans anymore and we’re looking for a famous new coach. Al Arabi has four foreign players and we’re going to keep one, who is Brazilian striker Paulinho,” Thani said. Zola was appointed the head coach of Al Arabi on July 11, 2015. The 29-year-old Dejagah joined the Qatari club, usually as an attacking midfielder or a right winger, on July 29, 2014. He has reportedly netted nine goals in 45 appearances over the last two seasons for Al Arabi. Dejagah scored his first goal of the 2015–16 season in Al Arabi's 4–1 win against Al-Mesaimeer on December 9, 2015. He has still two years left on his contract with the Qatari club. Dejagah has been linked with a move to Tehran-based professional football club Persepolis, which plays in the Persian Gulf Pro League. On January 21, Nekounam moved to Al Arabi on a four-month contract with an option to extend for a further year.