x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Braga's season of building

Abel Braga did not achieve his stated aim of leading Al Jazira to the UAE title this season but he is content with his first taste of management in the Gulf.

Abel Braga will remain at Jazira next season.
Abel Braga will remain at Jazira next season.

ABU DHABI // Abel Braga did not achieve his stated aim of leading Al Jazira to the UAE title this season but he is content with his first taste of management in the Gulf. The Brazilian came to the capital on the back of a long career managing in South America, where he led Internacional of Brazil to the 2006 Club World Cup title. It is a competition he had hoped to be back in next year, as Jazira would have been granted entry had they claimed the Pro League crown. With the tournament being held in Abu Dhabi, everyone at the club was dreaming of playing in it. Instead, the Dubai club Al Ahli will be making the short trip south to represent the UAE. The title race went to the final day of the season, and although Braga's side fell short the club showed their faith in him by handing him a two-year contract. "It was my first season in the Gulf and I spent more time in learning the culture, traditions and the players attitude and approach to the game, besides the coaching," he said. "Acquiring an in-depth knowledge and idea of such matters will help me achieve better results in the next season. "We didn't have the full squad when we started the pre-season training in Europe because five of the players were with the national team and involved in a different camp. They were in and out because of national duty, and I got to know them better towards the end of the season." Braga noted some of the young players to emerge during the season such as Ali Mabkout, Khalid Sabeel, Sultan al Minhali, Abdulla Mousa and Salem Masood. They will have a bigger part to play next season, when Braga hopes to have a larger squad at his disposal. "They have come up the ranks and will be better players next season," he said. "We still need three more local players to fill in some of the weaker areas and I have already discussed this with the club management. We have to scout those who would be available to sign in for the next season." From next season Pro League clubs will be allowed to have four non-Emirati players in their squads, so long as one is Asian. Braga felt this was a welcome move for the league, but suggested more players from outside would help the game develop even more. "That would help the local players to improve," he said. "When I went for the 2006 Club World Cup with Internacional, I found 18 foreign players in the Barcelona squad. If the UAE is thinking about improving the game, they must look beyond the domestic competitions." Braga was limited to three foreign players this season. The Brazilian forward Rafael Sobis has a contract for five years and defender Marcio Rozario's deal has been renewed for one more season. But Fernando Baiano, the top scorer in the Pro League with 25 goals and the Etisalat Cup (7), is set to return to the Spanish club Real Murcia after aone-year loan spell. "I was pretty happy with the three foreign signing Sobis, Baiano and Rozario," Braga said. "We will see what we can do to get Baiano back. I think he was the only player that was fit and ready from the start, after playing throughout the season in Spain. He did a very good job for us." Jazira will return for pre-season training on July 25. The squad will travel to Austria three days later for a three-week summer camp. They will move to either Portugal or Spain for the second half of the camp and return in August. Braga started his playing career with Fluminense in 1968 before moving to France for a spell with Paris Saint-Germain from 1979 to 1981. He finished his playing back in Brazil with Cruzeiro, Botafago and Goytacaz before retiring in 1985.

apassela@thenational.ae