Marcel Keizer: Al Jazira manager on AGL's planned return for August and learning from the Ajax academy

UAE football has been in lockdown since March because of the coronavirus pandemic

Al Jazira manager speaks out on the return of football

Al Jazira manager speaks out on the return of football
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Even with the Arabian Gulf League season currently shut down because of the coronavirus crisis, Al Jazira are working hard towards its resumption.

A restart has been provisionally set for August, with the Abu Dhabi club third in the table heading into the final seven rounds, seven points off leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai.

Now in his second stint at the club, manager Marcel Keizer gave his thoughts on lockdown, the league’s late-summer return, promoting youth, and Jazira’s title bid.

How have you been keeping busy during lockdown?

“First of all, staying healthy. Second of all, doing some fitness because it’s very difficult for me to do nothing. For my personal fitness I try to do some exercises and, of course, thinking about the team. I’ve been making some videos for the moment we can start again.”

How does knowing the league returns in August help in terms of planning? 

“I’m very happy with the decision to start the league in August again. For me, any decision was good. If they started in May, for example, also good, and now we start in August it’s fine. The most important thing is the government make the rules now and we have to make sure beat the coronavirus. Second of all, we can work again. For coaches now to make planning for the rest of the season we know the date. Now we know the month, are we starting at the beginning of August or the end of August, which is important for us to make the schedule.”

The team were in great form before the shutdown, culminating in the 3-1 home win against second-placed Al Ain. You must be happy with performances?

"We did well and kept getting better, and the win against Al Ain was good. Of course, it's too bad we couldn't continue because after Al Ain we had the Sharjah game, which is another important game, and we have the right spirit at the moment, so for us it was good to play. But we have to respect the rules. But I was happy with the progress of the team."


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You had been in charge for five months before the league suspension. What had changed at the club since your first spell in charge? 

“In football, everything goes really fast and there were two or three transfer windows when I was out, so the team changed. When I came back the team had more experience with a couple of players who did very well. For a coach it’s really good to have some extra experienced players with the team. I think our squad is at a high level, which is why we made these good steps in the last few weeks of the league.”

You came through Dutch academies, which are renowned for producing talent. Can you bring any elements of this to Al Jazira? 

“For example, Ajax are always preparing young players for the first team and the same in Sporting [Lisbon] - I was for one year, but they have a very good academy. For me it’s very good to see young players coming through. People can often expect a lot, but sometimes it takes a little more time to get them where you want them to be. We saw this a couple of years ago in Al Jazira with young players – [Mohammed] Al Attas, Abdullah Ramadan - and now they are playing in the team all the time. Let’s hope that some young players are coming also now, they have to wait a little and then maybe they are ready next year for the team. That’s very good for us.”

How has the reaction been since your return to the club?

“A really good reaction from fans and everybody around the club. The first half-year I was here we performed well and everybody saw the team with energy, good spirit and playing well. Then one year later I’m already back, which is also strange in football, but I was really happy to be back. Everything went really fast. The team have reacted very well, especially in the last month we’ve made the last steps to be a really good team.”

What’s your message for fans during this time?  

“First of all, I hope all fans stay healthy. The most important thing now is to listen to the rules of the government. I understand that if you are a fan of Al Jazira that you want to see the team and all the good players in action. It will come again and then they can enjoy the team. And we’ll make sure that we are ready for the restart.”