x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Drinking tea and talking politics – my time with Roy Hodgson

Amith Passela remembers covering the Englishman's spell in charge of the UAE and recalls an amiable, polite professional.

Roy Hodgson during his time as UAE national team manager. Al Ittihad
Roy Hodgson during his time as UAE national team manager. Al Ittihad

I travelled with Roy Hodgson to Turkmenistan and spent three days with him and the UAE team in Asgabat for an Asian Cup qualifier they lost 1-0 in 2003.

We would sit in the hotel lobby for a chat over a cup of tea. He struck me as very smart, articulate and keen to keep our conversation away from football and politics.

He is an amiable man and it was easy to get along with someone who knew the protocol for the press and was so knowledgeable about the game. Hodgson was easy to approach and he was one of the few UAE coaches who was available by telephone.

Hodgson is fluent in several languages but not Arabic so the English-speaking reporters had the upper hand over our Arab colleagues when Hodgson was in charge of the UAE for 21 months.

I can remember the Dubai television anchor asking him if he would step down after a draw against Turkmenistan in the home game.

"You have asked me a hostile question but I will give you a polite answer," Hodgson said.

Not all the UAE writers were hostile. One writer from the Arabic press said to Hodgson he expected him to follow in the footsteps of Carlos Queiroz, the former coach of the UAE team who went on to be No 2 at Manchester United and coach Real Madrid. He has reached the top eventually.

I attended a few of Hodgson's UAE training sessions and was impressed by his attention to detail and enthusiasm. The England players can certainly expect their new manager to be hands-on.

apassela@thenational.ae

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