AL AIN // Winfried Schaefer, who was sacked as the coach of Al Ain last week despite winning three trophies this year, has warned national sides from the Middle East will not qualify for World Cup finals until domestic clubs show more patience with managers. Schaefer, who as the Cameroon coach won the 2002 African Cup of Nations and reached the 2002 World Cup finals, became the fourth Pro League coach to lose his job this season after losing two matches in a row.
"Winning and losing is a part of football, but one must look at the overall picture before arriving at a decision," said the German. "In every established football nation it is the domestic leagues that set the benchmark of the national teams. The club coaches must be given more time, at least four or five years, to develop a team. Sadly it is lacking in the Middle East, and this is one of the main reasons none of them are in the 2010 World Cup finals."
Schaefer has done his part to infuse fresh blood into an Al Ain team who had not won a trophy since the President's Cup in 2005-2006. He was rewarded with a cup double last season and qualification for the Asian Champions League after finishing third in the league. Yet their President's Cup shoot-out loss to Ajman, followed by a 1-0 away defeat to title-chasing Al Wahda in the league was enough for Schaefer to lose his job. Without him, Al Ain suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Al Wasl on Sunday as they dropped to fourth in the league, eight points behind the leaders Al Jazira.
Schaefer spent almost two years in charge at Al Ain and now hopes to find further work in the Pro League "I still feel the team had done pretty well despite the President's Cup loss. Al Ain are still in the race for the league and Etisalat Cup," he said. "I will stay here for a while and see what opportunities may come. I was sad but not surprised when they terminated my contract, I spent two very good years at Al Ain and I was sure of winning the league this season.
"At the start of the season, I said I wanted to win all for Al Ain. But our main goal was to win the league and play in the Club World Cup. "We had three good foreign players [Jorge Valdivia, Marcio Emerson and Jose Sand] but they can't be doing all the work in every game. We played without Valdivia and lost two games but this is not uncommon; every team goes through this phase." Schaefer led Al Ahli to the league title in his first season in 2005-2006 but did not have the same success in the following year and parted company with the Dubai club. After moving to Al Ain, Schaefer's first task was to make wholesale changes to the first-team squad, with many senior players leaving.
"The changes were also good for the players," he said. "We needed fresh blood and I brought in some youngsters who never had the opportunity to play in the first team. We had seven of them in the national team. "These players now carry a higher price tag and the value of the team is much higher." The brothers Mohammed and Fawzi Fayez, Salem Abdulla, Abdulla Malallah, Ahmed Medhad, Ahmed Khamis, and Mohannad al Enazi emerged from the youth squad, and Fares Juma, Musallam Fayez, Waled Salem and Mutaz Abdulla won their places back in the national team.