x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Bruno was out for the count

The Frenchman had long cut the figure of a man who had given up on UAE football, like many before him.

Bruno Metsu gestures during the UAE's game against Syria in April. He has quit his role as national team coach.
Bruno Metsu gestures during the UAE's game against Syria in April. He has quit his role as national team coach.

The coach is dead, long live the coach - always provided someone will accept the job of course. Bruno Metsu has gone and in the fast-moving, unreal, unrelenting and slightly queasy domain of running the UAE's national side, probably soon to be forgotten. This was a wretched way for the furry Frenchman to depart, but his decision to resign is hardly one which would have sent tremors reverberating around the world's news wires yesterday.

Somebody else will be along soon enough to see out the remainder of the World Cup qualifying games, but the loss of the single-minded Metsu, 54, is worth mourning. This is a man who cajoled the UAE into beating Oman in the final of the Gulf Cup last year, prompting some locals to rejoice openly on the streets. Yet the people will not cry over his departure. It had been pored over on these pages after the 2-1 home losses to North Korea and Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, that Metsu, like his team for much of those galling, job-costing defeats, cut a sickened figure.

On a hairy day yesterday, Metsu, a man who is a cross-breed of the singers Carlos Vives and Michael Bolton, finally awoke to the realisation that he could no longer serenade this honest, but limited squad of triers. While clearly being a spent force, he has apparently found enough reserves to buy out the remainder of a contract with the UAE FA that is due to expire in 2010. It has been suggested that the Qatar national team will provide the backdrop to his next venture.

He seems to be content to escape from the claustrophobia of being based in the Emirates having realised their notional value is not very high. When a manager emerges from defeat to publicly deride his players for lacking identity, one can quickly deduce that he is not content with his calling in life. Metsu walked out after two years, but his comments in the aftermath of the loss to Saudi suggested it has been at the forefront of his mind for some time.

"The national team has no identity, the players are not physically strong and do not have the culture of maintaining their advantage or returning to the game after conceding a goal or two," he said. "They loseconcentration, and do not know how to adjust quickly." It is often said major European clubs are only one or two defeats away from a crisis. In the UAE, one or two defeats could see a coach dismissed.

Metsu chose to walk away from his role but the reaction of the fans against North Korea and Saudi Arabia was damning. Water bottles and a watch pouring on to the pitch was comical, but it probably did not soothe his mindset. A fraction of the Emirati population showing up for such a poignant game also bordered on anational disgrace for what is held up as the national sport. It should be pointed out that with such indifference, the UAE do not deserve to reach a World Cup finals, or have a coach as mindful as Metsu.

The list of managers who have occupied Metsu's former position is stunning. Don Revie left England for the post in 1977, while Carlos Alberto Parreira, Mario Zagallo, Carlos Queiroz, Roy Hodgson and Dick Advocaat have also occupied it. Most have come for money, but they still came. Unfortunately, they do not hang around for long. Metsu is the latest in a growing list of evacuees. The new manager will be the 29th coach to run the UAE team since 1972. That means the average lifespan for Metsu's abandoned position is only 15 months.

The lack of clarity in the role is not assisted by the farcical level of expectation. The thought process of fans in the region may have something to do with the ever-changing landscape. The authorities do not help the national players by refusing them access to try to improve overseas. While national players are restricted to the new Pro league in the UAE, they will toil to improve their stock as the 109th side in the Fifa world rankings.

Metsu is the coach who helped Senegal outlive France in the 2002 World Cup finals, but was suffocated by a lack of ability from his UAE players. Senegal reached the quarter-finals before losing to Turkey, and Metsu picked up the Asian Champions Al Ain in 2003. But on days like yesterday, the mission of a football coach seems pointless. @Email:dkane@thenational.ae