Emirati coaches moving up football ladder

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's decree that all Dubai football clubs must employ an Emirati on the back room coaching staff next season makes for a fascinating subplot.

It does seem bizarre, to outsiders, when the topic of Emirati managers in the Pro League is broached. "None? Not one? In the whole league? Really?"
Imagine the Premier League clubs without an English coach. Serie A without an Italian. The Bundesliga with no German. A vivid imagination is helpful to conjure such scenarios.
Since the creation of the Pro League, for the 2008/09 season, the Emirati presence in the dugout usually has been limited to players - and the translators for the expatriates who coach those players.
The comprehensive list of Emiratis who have led Pro League sides can be quickly recapped: Eid Baroot, Al Dhafra, December 2008 to May 2009; Mahdi Ali, Al Ahli, November 2009 to January 2010; Abdulhameed al Mishtiki, Al Ain, April 2010 to January 2011; Baroot, again, Al Nasr, October 2010 to January 2011.
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It is notable that none of those men was given an entire season in charge and that only al Mishtiki was allowed to start a season as manager.
Perhaps that jarring realisation was behind the declaration this week by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, that the five Pro League sides based in Dubai must have Emirati assistant coaches in time for the start of next season.
The Emiratis do not have to be in charge; they just need to be in the back room and dugout.
This is an arresting topic in several respects.
For one, this is a league in which holders of Emirati passports have always made up the overwhelming majority of players.
No more than three foreigners can be in the squad; everyone else is an Emirati.
Yet even with the advantage of being able to communicate with players in Arabic, it is unclear why none of these Emirati players have come back to manage a Pro League side.
And who are the decision makers who have preferred, almost without fail, to choose foreigners when it comes time to hiring coaches? The Emiratis who run the clubs.
The entire situation is puzzling. The country may need foreign expertise in certain fields, but the UAE has long since demonstrated it understands the game of football.
Meanwhile, Brazil has remained the preferred country of origin for Pro League coaches.
Eight of the 12 league sides currently are led by Brazilian managers; the other top-flight coaches hail from Austria, Egypt, Republic of Ireland and Italy.
No matter the foreign country of origin, these managers understandably surround themselves with people they know, and whose language they can speak, usually from their home country. Hence, the lack of Emirati assistant coaches.
The Dubai Declaration should not be difficult to carry out; certainly every club in the emirate has Emiratis already coaching in the youth ranks. Some will find themselves getting promotions.
We can't help but think that the long-term idea behind Sheikh Hamdan's announcement is preparing Emiratis for the top jobs with clubs. It is a far shorter jump from assistant to manager than it is from age-group coach.
Nationals could also be further prepared by allowing top players the chance to play in leagues outside the UAE; a player with playing experience in several countries, perhaps including one in Europe, might be better prepared to lead a Pro League side when he finishes his playing career.
If this were to happen, we might soon discover whether the notion that Emirati footballers generally are not interested in coaching has any validity. That seems hard to believe, actually, when Abel Braga of Al Jazira reportedly makes Dh1.1 million per month.
We also would learn if the club preference for hiring foreigners to coach could be overcome. This will be a fascinating Pro League subplot over the next year or two.
 
poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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