x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bathenay's defence

The outgoing coach Dominique Bathenay blames a leaky defence and the poor domestic league for the UAE's failings.

Dominique Bathenay, centre, takes a UAE training session before the recent match against Germany.
Dominique Bathenay, centre, takes a UAE training session before the recent match against Germany.

DUBAI // With just two wins, against minnows Yemen and Malaysia, in 15 games at the helm, Dominique Bathenay must have few memories to treasure from his tenure as coach of the UAE national team. The Frenchman took the UAE to Oman for the Gulf Cup as defending champions, but they crashed out at the group stages. The final round of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup was also a disaster, with the team gaining just a single point from eight games.

Bathenay, though, thinks he still made some positive contributions towards the future of UAE football. "The results have been negative," said Bathenay, who is set to be replaced by Slovenian Srecko Katanec in the coming weeks. "But I think we have a lot of positives we can look forward to. "We have created a good pool of youngsters and with a bit more international experience, they can form a really formidable combination. So we have managed to establish a system, which puts the team on the right course of progress and development."

While there have been many reasons offered for UAE's poor performance on the international stage, Bathenay believes the lack of quality in the domestic league is the prime culprit. "The league is better now than it was four years ago," he said. "But when you look at our results in the Asian Champions League, we did not do well. "That shows the true level of our local football. We still have a lot of work to do before our league can catch up with the other nations."

The UAE conceded 17 goals in their eight games and Bathenay added: "We had the weakest defence and that was one of the biggest difference," he said. "Experience makes a huge difference because one mistake can prove costly at the international level." Bathenay took over the reins of the national team in September when Bruno Metsu decided to step down following five successive defeats. Metsu was highly critical of the team and said the players "don't have the heart" for international matches.

Bathenay, who was Metsu's assistant, insists his former boss and never said any such thing. "Sometimes, when Bruno said something, the translation was not very good," he explained. Bathenay claims he has a contract until Oct 31, but the UAE Football Association have already announced they will sign a contract with Katanec in the coming weeks. Bathenay added: "I don't know about the UAE FA's plans, but I am a professional.

"If they want to cancel my contract, they can do it. If they want me to continue, we will discuss. For the moment though, I just want to go home and have a holiday with my family. I really need one." arizvi@thenational.ae