Khamis Esmail and Al Jazira ‘looking forward ... to more trophies’ under Abel Braga

Khamis Esmaeel made 18 Arabian Gulf League appearances for Al Jazira last season. Ravindranath K / The National
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DUBAI // Khamis Esmail has backed Abel Braga to deliver more titles to Al Jazira, after the Brazilian officially reprised his role as coach last month.

Braga was announced two weeks ago as successor to Eric Gerets, taking charge of the capital club for a second time following his hugely successful three-season stint from 2008.

During that initial spell at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, he transformed Jazira, guiding them to the League Cup in 2010 before leading the team the following year to the UAE championship and the President’s Cup. It represented the first time Jazira had secured either trophy.

Esmail, who signed for Jazira midway through that double-winning season, is understandably looking forward to working with Braga again.

“I’m very excited for him to come back because we won a lot of trophies,” said the UAE midfielder on Tuesday at an event for sponsors Adidas. “He’s very strong and everyone loves him. We’re looking forward to getting more trophies with him.”

Jazira finished last season as Arabian Gulf League runners-up, when a woeful defensive record ultimately cost them the title. They conceded 46 goals, the worst tally outside of the division's two relegated clubs.

Esmail is confident Braga can help tighten Jazira’s backline, though, especially since he previously made the club incredibly difficult to beat: from 2008 to 2011, Jazira lost four times in 66 league matches. The acquisition on Wednesday of Fares Juma, the Al Ain centre-back, is sure to help address the situation.

“For sure, Braga knows the problem,” Esmail said. “He’s coming to fix this. The management has brought in Juma and we hope he’ll help us to improve the team. In the league second is like last place; if we don’t win the title, we don’t win anything. So we’re looking to be champions.”

Esmail also welcomed the recent recruitment of Thiago Neves, the Brazilian playmaker signed from Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia, while saying he trusts the Jazira board to adequately replace Jucilei, who left last week for China’s Shandong Luneng.

However, Esmail did concede the 2015/16 campaign will be UAE football’s most competitive yet, after Jazira’s main rivals have themselves been busy in the transfer market.

“Of course,” he said. “Nothing is easy. All the teams work hard and so are we. So we’ve just got to be prepared and ready for next season.”

Khamis Esmail was speaking at a preview of the Adidas Football Bunker at Dubai Sports World.

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