x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Internacional's Roth returns to where it all began

Coach in fourth spell at Internacional and he started coaching 22 years ago in the Middle East at the helm of the Kuwaiti club Al Qadsia.

Celso Roth, second right, speaks with his assistants in Abu Dhabi this week. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
Celso Roth, second right, speaks with his assistants in Abu Dhabi this week. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

ABU DHABI // Celso Roth is the ultimate managerial journeyman. In 22 years, his CV takes in 27 different coaching jobs in five countries and two continents. And yet, in the same week that he hopes to arrive at his final destination, his career comes full circle.

This week has returned him to the region where it all began.

The 53-year-old started coaching 22 years ago in the Middle East at the helm of the Kuwaiti club Al Qadsia. He went on to work in Qatar with the national team and Al Ittihad, and then had a short spell in Brazil with Internacional.

In 1995, he returned to the region to take the reins at Dubai-based Al Ahli. Fifteen years later and Roth is back on UAE soil.

On Tuesday, he will lead out Internacional - where he is enjoying a fruitful fourth spell - against TP Mazembe at Zayed Sports City as he seeks to secure a Club World Cup title to complement the Copa Libertadores that his side won in August.

"Firstly, to be here is a very good thing," Roth said. "I lived happily in this region for six years and was very welcomed here - although the UAE is very different-looking now."

Roth is not the only member on the Internaciolnal roster who has experience in the Emirates. Rafael Sobis, the striker, played for Al Jazira last season, while teammate Alecsandro Barbosa, the forward, endured an injury-plagued spell with Al Wahda in 2008. Both players are enjoying a rejuvenation under Roth.

Alecsandro has averaged a goal every two games since moving back to Porto Alegre, while Sobis scored in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final.

"The quality is visible in the team and I see that as recognition of my work," Roth said. "We are here among the best in the world and we should enjoy it. If we do our best, we can win. I feel this and the players feel this, too. But the most important thing is just to win; if we play well, excellent, but at this stage it is just about progressing to the final."

Roth has been methodical in his preparation, having studied several videos of TP Mazembe as well as attending the Africans' 1-0 quarter-final victory over Pachuca on Thursday night. While confident in his side's ability, however, he acknowledges Mazembe may have an advantage having already started their campaign.

"Getting here was great, but maintaining that high level is very hard," Roth said. "The first game of a tournament is always difficult and this time we are representing our continent. Mazembe have more security and more tranquility [because they have already played a game], but this is the way it works.

"Of course in the first minutes, we will feel some emotions because we are not machines; we will feel butterflies in our stomachs because it is a big championship. We need to be focused and control that. Afterwards, if we can do that, everything will be normal."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae