It is an indicator of the low regard in which Emirati managers are held that there is only one - Al Dhafra's Eid Baroud - coaching in the Pro League.
Baroud aims to pave the way for Emiratis
It is an indicator of the low regard in which Emirati managers are held that there is only one - Al Dhafra's Eid Baroud - coaching in the Pro League. Even he was appointed in a rush, to stem the turmoil after Mohammed Kwid, the former Syria manager, left midway through December to rejoin his former club, the Syrian side Al Karama.
After Kwid beat such a hasty retreat, a Dhafra official summed up the mood of panic at the club, saying: "We don't have many options. We need to get someone very fast and we have had talks with a couple of Emirati managers." It was hardly a ringing endorsement of the new man. They eventually plumped for Baroud, a calm and undemonstrative coach who had been quietly impressing a division below at Al Jazira al Hamra.
He said: "The president of Dhafra called me and asked if I would come. My old club showed me a great deal of respect and let me leave." Prior to that, he had spent four seasons with another Ras Al Khaimah club, Emirates. Baroud, who terms himself a "very native local", has a keen sense of national pride. His insular perspective suits a club whose strong ties to their locale have made them a formidable side on home soil.
Despite struggling in the nether reaches of the Pro League, Dhafra have lost just two of their nine home matches so far this term. "I am the first local coach in the Pro League - the first one," added Baroud, with visible pride. "It is my desire to stay in the league this year and move them up the table. We're trying our best. It's not easy but we are trying our best with the support of our community."
Baroud earned his first win as Dhafra's manager against fellow strugglers Khaleej in the President's Cup. It was the club's only taste of success since the first week of December, and Baroud says a burden has been lifted from his side. "It will boost the morale of the players," he said. "We can go forward after that win. I have every confidence they can go on to get more wins now. In my view they did not perform to the level I expect them to [despite winning against Khaleej]. They have a lot more to do."
Baroud is likely to be afforded time to earn his stripes at Dhafra. When Baroud was appointed, Ahmed Jathlan al Mazrouei, a Dhafra director, said: "We understand it is hard for anyone to come and take over a team in the middle of the season." Baroud is still trying to impress his ideas on his players, and he added: "I have changed the system and I can't change the way the players think, and the mentality of the foreign players, in just over one month.
"It is very difficult to change things in the middle of the season. But I am very pleased with the young players." firstname.lastname@example.org