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Bruno Metsu

Bruno Metsu

Born: 28 January 1954 in Coudekerque (France)
Nationality: French
Playing career:
1963-1970: Dunkerque (France). 1970-1973: Anderlecht (Belgium). 1973-1975: Valenciennes (France). 1979-1981: Lille (France). 1981-1982: Nice (France). 1982-1984: Roubaix (France). 1984-1987: Beauvais Oise (France).
Coaching career:
1987-1988: Beauvais Oise (as assistant). 1988-1992 Beauvais Oise (as coach). 1992-1993: Lille. 1993-1994: Valenciennes. 1995-1998: Sedan (France). 1998-1999: Valence (France). 2000: Guinea. 200-2002: Senegal. 2002-2004: Al-Ain (UAE). 2004-2006: Al-Gharafa (Qatar). 2006: Al-Ittihad (Saudi Arabia). Since June 2006: UAE.
Honors as a coach:
2002 African Cup of Nations finalist and 2002 FIFA World Cup TM quarter-finalist; 2007 Gulf Cup of Nations winner; Asian Champions League winner in 2003; UAE league championship winner in 2003 and 2004; Qatari championship winner in 2005; Qatari winner in 2006.

“A fantastic challenge!”

To widespread surprise, he led Senegal to the 2002 FIFA World Cup TM quarter-finals. Now he is aiming to steer the United Arab Emirates to the 2010 tournament. In the run-up to the AFC Asian Cup 2007 in July, Frenchman Bruno Metsu holds forth on his methods and objectives.

Q: The United Arab Emirates are not due to play in the Asian Cup until July but your contract has already been extended until 2010. Why?
Bruno Metsu: We won the Gulf Cup in January, which had a tremendous impact. In the semi-final against Saudi Arabia and the final against Oman, the stadium in Abu Dhabi was packed, whereas normally the national team only plays in front of 2,000 or 3,000! You have to understand that the Gulf Cup of Nations, which was first held in 1970, is a highly prestigious tournament across the whole of the Middle East and the UAE had never won it before! When I took over as a coach last year, my employers did not ask me to win the Asian Cup but the Gulf Cup. That victory gave rise to rare scenes of jubilation throughout the country.

Q: Was winning the Gulf Cup one of the conditions for extension of your contract?
Bruno Metsu: No, but my employers have demonstrated that they value me and did not want to lose me for a second time. After winning the first ever AFC Champions League (in 2003) with Al-Ain, who are owned by the Emir of Abu Dhabi, I received a lot of offers. My employers first of all told me verbally that I was free to leave while I was still under contract. They then resented the fact that I left to go to Qatar to coach Al-Gharafa because there is a great rivalry between the different Gulf countries. They complained to FIFA and I was ordered to pay a fine for breach a contract.

Q: Despite this agreement, you came back to the UAE?
Bruno Metsu: My first year in Qatar went very well because Al-Gharafa won the championship by a comfortable margin and without losing a single match. However, the Crown Prince did not appreciate his club, Al-Sadd, being dethroned. Then, since the players are not contracted to the clubs but to the Olympic Committee chaired by the Crown Prince, my team was dismantled: Marcel Desailly, for example, who has brought his experience to bear on my defence, was “transferred” to Qatar Club. Nevertheless, Al-Gharafa still won the cup, but the circumstances had become too difficult to carry on. Since I had maintained good contracts in the UAE, I got the opportunity to come back, this time as national team coach.

Q: Why did you return to the UAE via Saudi Arabia?
Bruno Metsu: Pure chance. The two-time Asian champions (2004 and 2005), Al-Ittihad of Jeddah, were only fifth in the table and were in danger of missing out on the four-team final round of the championship. The club president, Mansour Al-Balili, therefore offered me a one-month contract to save the season. We came third and were then beaten by Al-Hilal in the semi-finals in a fiery atmosphere in Riyadh. I was a brief but very rewarding experience. The people there are very passionate about football and the big matches are played in front of sell-out crowds.

Q: You are once again a national team coach after four years of coaching at club level. Which of the two roles do you prefer?
Bruno Metsu: I am a passionate person, I follow my heart and I am in constant need of a challenge. There’s no big difference between club and national team management. The most important thing for me is the objective.

Q: And what is your objective now that you have won the Gulf Cup?
Bruno Metsu: I have signed until 2010 because I want to take UAE to the World Cup in South Africa. It’s a fantastic challenge! The UAE took part in the 1990 finals in Italy with Zagallo as a coach and I would be very proud to take them to a second World Cup.

Q: In the last three World Cups, Asia’s representatives have been virtually the same from one tournament to the next: Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Iran or China. Is there really room for UAE?
Bruno Metsu: Of course. Bahrain, for example, were very close to qualifying for the 2006 World Cup and were only knocked out in a play-off against Trinidad and Tobago. Our victory in the Gulf Cup has infused the players with added confidence. It has given players like Ismail Matar an extra dimension. He was in the junior team that took part in the U-20 World Cup in the UAE in 2003 and was even voted player of the tournament. He has now grown up and become the leader of the senior team, both on and off the pitch. He’s always on form! He scored five goals during the Gulf Cup, which proved decisive in the semi-final and final and was once again voted player of the tournament. He has the potential to develop in a European league.

Q: Do the UAE have the potential to qualify for a World Cup?
Bruno Metsu: We are working on it with my assistant, Dominique Bathenay, and the head of the Olympic team, Alex Dupont, who is preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. I recently traveled with his team to Uzbekistan and was pleasantly surprised by the players’ maturity and ability to negotiate a match in unfamiliar weather conditions with cold, snow and wind. I intend to include some of them in the senior squad for the Asian Cup.

Q: What is the UAE’s target for the Asian Cup 2007?
Bruno Metsu: We came top of our qualifying group ahead of Oman and Jordan – who reached the quarter finals of the previous tournament in China in 2004 – and Pakistan. This year’s finals are being held in several different countries: we will be playing in Vietnam against the home side, Japan and Qatar. It’s a very competitive group. It would be good to finish in the top two of our group and qualify for the quarter-finals.

Q: Who possess the biggest threat?
Bruno Metsu:Japan, who won the two previous tournaments , are a cut above the rest. Second place will be a toss-up between Vietnam, Qatar and us. You have to watch out for Qatar because they have naturalized a lot of players, in particular a Uruguayan who I signed for Ak-Gharafa when I was coach there and a Brazilian who played in Japan.

Q: Big name coaches like Tomislav Ivic, Roy Hodgson, Carlos Queiroz and Dick Advocaat had all failed with the UAE before you came along. What is the secret of your success?
Bruno Metsu: I think that these days everybody has the same resources with which to prepare a team from a tactical and physical standpoint. The majority of coaches have played at the highest level, taking coaching courses and been awarded diplomas. The difference is in the psychological side of things, the way you approach a match.

Q: How do you go about it?
Bruno Metsu: Above all, I try to make the players feel as confident as possible; I talk very little to them about their opponents, a little bit at the beginning of the week of the match, then noting other than to point out their weaknesses. There are coaches who emphasize the opponents’ to such an extent that the players come onto the pitch feeling frightened. I use videos a lot: before the opening match at the 2002 World Cup against France, I showed the Senegalese players all the “Bleus’” weakness. I never spoke of the qualities possessed by Henry, Trezeguet or Petit … besides, the players knew them already.

Q: Do you take a different approach depending on whether you are coaching in France, Senegal or the Middle East?
Bruno Metsu: Of course, you have to take into account the circumstances and the players’ mentality. I’ve seen a number of European coaches and even Frencmen fail in Qatar, the UAE or Africa because they arrive very sure of themselves and want to apply principles imported from Europe … it doesn’t work. We should not forget that we are brought in to serve the players to a certain extent, i.e. to take their environment and habits into account in order to increase efficiency on the pitch.

Q: In extending your contract with the UAE until 2010, are you not afraid of being forgotten and overlooked by a big European Club?

Bruno Metsu: I have a clause in my contract to release me in the event that a big club makes me an offer, but to be honest, I am very happy in the UAE. Life in Dubai is very pleasant and I have recently bought a house here. I return to France from time to time to see my family and friends, but I soon miss Dubai. I’ve lived in this region for five years and I think that the people have adopted me. It’s important to feel loved; it motivates you to take on new challenges.