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2006 was a good year for football in Qatar with the Gulf state qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup 2007, claiming gold at the Asian Games in Doha and climbing from 95th to 58th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Dzemaludin Musovic on his work as Qatar coach and his aims for the future.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the Qatar national team…
Dzemaludin Musovic: A new generation of players has emerged the last two years and we now have a young team that should be able to stay together for the next seven or eight years’ time. We have young, talented players, and I am confident that in another three four years’ time, Qatar will be one of the best teams of Asia. We have qualified for the Asian Cup later this year, and we also won gold at last year’s Asian Games in Doha. We certainly want to give a good account of ourselves in the Asian Cup, but our main target is to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup TM in South Africa, I believe that we have a good opportunity to qualify for our first FIFA World Cup because there is so much potential in this team. I also think that in a few years’ time, we will be unbeatable in Asia.

Q: How popular is football in Qatar?
Dzemaludin Musovic: I don’t think there is anywhere in the world that can match the investment that Qatar is currently pumping into sport in general, and football in particular. The whole country has a keen interest in football, especially Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, his heirs Sheikh Tamin Bin Hamad Al-Thani and Sheikh Jassim Bin Taner Al-Thani, and indeed the whole ruling family, and we are therefore seeing significant investment at the moment. New stadiums and training centers have been built, and not only because of the 15th Asian Games in Doha last year (reports suggest that Qatar invested 3 billion USD in the Asian Games and that they also bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games). Qatar has also set up its own professional league, and many foreign stars such as Gabriel Batistuta, Stefan Effenberg, Marcel Desailly and the De Boer brothers have played in the Q-League, helping to promote it and encourage more and more Qatari fans to watch domestic action. Foreign coaches have also helped to improve the standard of football, but we have now entered what you might call the “second phase” with foreign players, as the tendency now is to recruit younger players with more to offer as opposed to stars in the twilight of their careers. These players usually come from Africa, South America or from other countries in Gulf region such as Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait or Iraq.

Q: You really are enthusiastic about football in Qatar…
Dzemaludin Musovic: There are many good things happening here at the moment. The people in charge of football here have realized that success will only be achievable if they change how they think and how they act. The country is now planning for the long term, and young Qataris, educated abroad, are starting to accept management positions. Much-needed football academies will be built soon, and that can only have a positive effect on the domestic league and the Qatari national teams.

Q: Is there anything you don’t like about Qatari football?
Dzemaludin Musovic: Yes, the lack of patience shown by the clubs, who expect results and immediate success. Coaches in Qatar and the other Gulf states are seldom left to work independently towards long-term goals. All it takes is a couple of defeats and a coach can expect the sack. As for the players here, they still have disciplinary problems and their attitude isn’t very professional either. Young players often rest on their laurels instead of being determinate to develop further by battling and striving to reach greater heights. It must be said that some footballers in Qatar do not have the determination and drive to succeed.

Q: What kind of influence do the sheikhs have on the clubs and the national team?
Dzemaludin Musovic: That depends on the club and on the reputation of the coach concerned. One thing is for sure: the situation here is better than it is in Saudi Arabia, where coaches are often dismissed for trivial reasons, such as a sheikh not agreeing with a team selection, for example. The people who run clubs always influence coaches, even in Europe, the only difference is that it is not quite as brutal in Europe as it can be here. There are certain situations here that require tact and sensitivity. Of course, coaches can receive advice that is actually acceptable and even useful, but you really do have to try to establish yourself from the word go. During one of my previous coaching jobs in Qatar, I said to the club president, “If you really think you can do better, it would be much cheaper to you to coach the team yourself rather than having to pay me”. Having said that, football is generally the same wherever you go. If you are successful, everything is fine. If you aren’t, you can expect pressure and criticism from everyone.

Q: So who are Qatar’s great hopes for the future?
Dzemaludin Musovic: Khalfan Ibrahim, a 19-year-old midfielder who was named Asian player of the year in 2006, is a wonderful talent. He has quick feet, he is fast, he has excellent technique and he is lethal in front of goal. His father was a good player too. Waleed Jassem Abdulla is 20-year-old striker of immense promise, but unfortunately he does not seem to have the right attitude. He was quite brilliant a couple of years ago, but now he is warming the bench at Al Rayyan because he doesn’t apply himself, as he should. I won’t leave Waleed in the lurch though, as it would be a shame to lose him. That is why he is still in the national squad and why he is still getting his chance to impress me. He has a wonderful shooting technique and he is very dangerous from free kicks. Other talents are Rajab, a 22-year-old central defender who is fast and strong on the ball, Majdi, a 23-year-old midfielder with excellent technique, and Ahmed Ali, a 19-year-old kid who is blessed with pace and that little bit of impudence that all good strikers need.

Q: Your team also has three players with roots abroad. Are there any plans to naturalize other footballers in order to strengthen the Qatar team?
Dzemaludin Musovic: We have to be careful that we don’t take it too far. Artificial things are not good. The three players you have mentioned have all been in Qatar for a while now, and they have all decided to play for us. They are key players in my team. Our goalkeeper, Ahmed, is from Senegal, as is Koni, our defensive leader and captain, whereas Sebastian Quintana is originally from Uruguay.

Q: There are also rumors that Brazilian striker Marcio Emerson Passos will be playing for Qatar soon.
Dzemaludin Musovic: The truth is we do not know yet. Emerson has been playing for Al Saad for 18 months now. He is an excellent footballer, and he seems to like it here. As far as I know, Japan also wanted him to play for them, but Emerson, who used to play for Urawa Red Diamonds, turned them down.