x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Katanec calls for players to try their hand overseas

UAE football's brightest talents must be given the chance to forge careers abroad if the national team is going to progress on the international stage.

Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, makes a point to Hamdan Al Kamali during the Asian Cup.
Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, makes a point to Hamdan Al Kamali during the Asian Cup.

DUBAI // UAE football's brightest talents must be given the chance to forge careers abroad if the national team is going to progress on the international stage.

That is the view of Football Association bosses and Srecko Katanec, the national team coach, who yesterday laid much of the blame for the UAE's early exit from the Asian Cup on the domestic game.

The national team meekly departed the tournament at the group stage, having failed to score in three outings, despite having 59 shots on goal in the tournament. They have drawn blanks in 10 of their past 14 matches.

Katanec, the former centre-back from Slovenia, says the profligacy in front of goal stems from a lack of killer-instinct.

"If you want to score you have to put the pressure on yourself that you must score," Katanec said. "Here we are still joking [after missing a shot]. When a professional misses a chance, they are angry with themselves because they know they need to score.

"We created many chances, but could not score. Take the example of Iran: against Korea, they scored having only had three shots."

Katanec led Slovenia, with a population about a third the size of the UAE, to the 2000 European Championships and 2002 World Cup. He provoked the ire of the UAE Pro League's bosses when he suggested the raft of foreign strikers in the country's top division were hindering the development of Emirati forwards.

One solution would be if the players were able to move overseas to progress their games.

"It is not just a problem for UAE football, many competitions have players from abroad playing in key positions," Yousuf Abdullah, the general secretary of the UAE FA, said. "In the [Asian Cup] final [Japan versus Australia] 80 per cent of the players were European league players. It is a major problem for us that we don't have a local player playing outside the UAE.

"Still we don't have one single player playing outside of the Gulf league."

However, the UAE's leading clubs have been reticent in the past about letting their players leave, even though the likes of Ismail Matar and Faisal Khalil have often expressed the desire to test themselves abroad in the past.

Katanec believes domestic football does not pose enough of a challenge consistently to the leading players.

"Many players show 10 times better performances for the national team than they do in their clubs," he said. "They run much more in the national team than they do for their club. But it is not enough for the players to be under pressure for 14 days.

"They need to be under pressure all the year. They must play important games. They need to be in tough situations."

pradley@thenational.ae