x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Al Jazira prove that continuity breeds success

As many as 44 Pro League coaches have come and gone but Abel Braga, the Brazilian coach, has been persisted. The results are showing.

ABU DHABI // Abel Braga is the great exception.

As 44 other coaches have come to the Pro League and, usually, soon left it, the Brazilian has been a constant at Al Jazira. His longevity remains both a curiosity and, some say, a tribute to the Abu Dhabi club.

"They are the exception, and in the third year they are winning all the championships," said Ahmed Khalifa Hammad, the chief executive of Al Ahli.

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"The other clubs don't have this kind of patience."

Jazira have already this term won the President's Cup for the first time and could clinch their first top-flight championship on Monday.

Braga began at Jazira in the autumn of 2008, and he remains the club's only coach during the Pro League era.

He is one of only nine men to coach a Pro League team from the start of a season until its end, and he is five matches away from doing it three times.

Since the dawn of the Pro League, Manuel Cajuda, at Sharjah, is the only other man to last two full seasons with a club, assuming he is not dismissed before June 9.

Phil Anderton, the chief executive at Jazira, said clubs need first to "have the patience to choose right in the first place" and then back away and let their man do the job he was hired for.

"We're happy we stuck with our coach and you can see the benefit of it," Anderton said.

"You have to give a coach time to build a team, to get the right players, install their own management culture. It doesn't happen overnight."

Braga, 58, arrived in the capital not long after the greatest achievements of his career, a 2006 Copa Libertadores championship with Internacional, the Brazilian side, followed by a surprise championship later that year in the Fifa Club World Cup.

In the final, Braga's club defeated Barcelona, the European champions, 1-0, before 67,000 spectators in Yokohama, Japan.

Prior to 2006, however, he had a reputation for finishing second, and that was the case with Jazira in both 2009 and 2010. But the club honoured his three-year deal which, reportedly, pays him Dh1.1 million per month.

Jazira were championship contenders before he arrived, finishing second in the league in both 2007 and 2008.

But he gave Jazira no reason to doubt that he eventually would lead them to their first President's Cup and league title; Jazira have lost only three league matches, from 61, during his tenure.

Braga earlier this season said he expected he would return to Brazil after this season, but it has been rumoured that the club are trying to keep him.

A fourth season with a UAE club would be a reign of almost unimaginable length.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae