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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Bert van Marwijk Q&A: World Cup 2022 'maybe last chance for UAE's talented generation'

Dutchman has been appointed manager of the national team with the sloe focus of trying to reach the global finals in 2022

Bert Van Marwijk, right, was presented as the new UAE manager on a three year deal. Pawan Singh / The National
Bert Van Marwijk, right, was presented as the new UAE manager on a three year deal. Pawan Singh / The National

Bert van Marwijk was last week appointed as UAE manager on an initial three-year contract. The Dutchman, who previously managed the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia with distinction, has set clear his sole objective: qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Why did you choose the UAE?

The UAE have a talented generation of players, such as Omar Abdulrahman, Ali Mabkhout, and Ahmed Khalil, who are now in their prime. It is maybe their last chance to get to a World Cup tournament, and the federation has asked me to get them there. This ambition is very important for me.

As a coach, it is important to have a goal, to have something to work together for. I think we have an advantage in that I can already start on this task, because we have some months to prepare for the first qualification matches in September. I am a coach who likes to train with the players and make the team better. I think we have a great opportunity here to prepare our team in the best way possible.

We understand that there were also other offers?

You are right, but for a coach, it is important to get the time. The Football Association has a very clear vision and a long-term development plan. The goal is to qualify for World Cup 2022. I like this, because it means I can really build a team, make it stronger, and really implement a way of playing. Anyone who has followed my career will know this is how I like to work, and the federation is giving me the opportunity to do this.

Will you be living in the UAE?

Of course, I will be here. I still have to decide whether I will rent an apartment or stay in a hotel, though. I have been in Dubai and Abu Dhabi many times, and I know what a great place the Emirates is.

I have already worked out with the federation an intensive programme in which I will watch many games to get to know the players. I know all the players on the national team, but I also need to become acquainted with other Emirati club players to see if any can add to the national team.

Between now and World Cup 2022, many things could happen. For example, players can improve and young talent can mature, and I need to monitor all these things. I already know of some young talented players who have a lot of potential.

Of course, I will not be alone in this: I also have my assistants, whom I worked with in Saudi Arabia. I have brought John Metgod, who played for Real Madrid - I worked with him at Feyenoord. If you want to be successful, you have to work hard, and you need to work smart. This is important for the players, but also for the coach. You can only achieve success when you work as a team.

In a Dutch newspaper, you were quoted as saying that you would also be involved as a coach at PSV Eindhoven. Will you have two jobs?

Of course not. I was misquoted. The reporter asked if I would still be helping my son-in-law, Mark van Bommel, who is head coach at PSV Eindhoven at the moment. I will naturally help him if he asks me for advice, because he is family. But that doesn’t mean I am a coach at PSV. I have no contract. My dedication and full attention belongs to the UAE national team.

Do you know the team?

Of course, I know the team very well. In past years, we [Saudi Arabia] played four times against the Emirates. They were always great games between two strong teams. We won twice, but we also lost, so I know the Emirati team have a lot of qualities.

What do you know about the Arabian Gulf League?

In the past, I have watched the games between Al Ahli, Al Ain and Al Jazira and teams from Saudi Arabia. I think some problems are the same as in Saudi Arabia. Teams tend to buy many foreign players for key positions in the team, so it is difficult for local players to get the chance to develop. When I look at the list of top scorers, we are lucky to have a quality striker like Ali Mabkhout of Al Jazira, but most of the top goalscorers are foreign players.

Have you already seen young talented players?

The Olympic team is doing very well at the moment. They played against Lebanon and the Maldives recently [in qualifying for AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020], and there is a lot of talent in this team.

Some of these players have the potential to become important players in the national team. This is why it is important to give young players the opportunity to play and develop. This is an important concern for the future.

Updated: March 28, 2019 08:39 AM

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