x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Operation co-operation for Ahli coach Hasek

The key to getting back to the top, the successful manager in the past tells Ahmed Rizvi, is to get the team working together again.

After two years in the Czech Republic, Ivan Hasek is back on the training field with Al Ahli.
After two years in the Czech Republic, Ivan Hasek is back on the training field with Al Ahli.

When Ivan Hasek first took over the reins of Al Ahli in late December 2007, they had just one win from six league matches. Less than five months later, they were crowned the President's Cup winners.

In the league, they recovered to finish third before emerging champions a season later, going down in history as the first title winners after the league went professional.

Hasek was the toast of Ahli's fans then, but he opted to return home. The Czech is now back in Dubai, with Ahli hoping he will guide them back to the top after two disappointing seasons, where on both occasions they finished eighth in the league.

Ahli's seventh coach since July, 2009, however, insists he will not be able improve their fortunes overnight, and warned a long and difficult road lies ahead.

"Everybody thinks that my coming back here will turn things around, but that's not true," said Hasek, who stepped down as the president of the Czech Football Federation to retake the Ahli role. "There is a lot of hard work ahead for us.

"It will be a lot more difficult than the first time; it was easier for me the first time. We need to prepare the team as well as we can, and that is why we have started early. We will go step by step as we develop the team and then try to win some trophies to bring happiness to our supporters."

Hasek started his work on Monday, with light training sessions at the club. They left for the Czech Republic yesterday, where the team will have a week-long training camp, medicals and other tests. Next, they will travel to Austria for a two-week conditioning camp.

The squad will then return home from Austria for a three-day break before flying to Perth, Australia, for a third camp, where they are scheduled to play five friendly matches.

Ahli's two new recruits, the Brazilian strikers Grafite and Jakson Coelho, have joined up with the squad, but their third signing for the new season, Luis Jimenez, will join the squad later as he is on international duty with Chile at the Copa America.

Jimenez is an attacking midfielder and Ahli's focus on strengthening their goal-scoring potential is a result of their poor performance up front last season.

They managed only 30 goals, which was the second-lowest total in the league after relegated Al Dhafra's 27.

Grafite, the top scorer in Germany's Bundesliga in 2009, said: "My objective here is to score goals. That is what I have come here for. I know it's going to be difficult to adapt due to the weather conditions. I also have to settle in here and it will be some time, but that will not stop me from trying to fulfil my role here."

Coelho, who earned a reputation for indiscipline at Trabzonspor in Turkey, has promised to turn the page on his past and endear himself to the Ahli faithful with his performances.

"I had some problems like everybody, but it is not such a big problem," he said. "I enjoyed my time in Turkey and I believe I did well. I scored a lot of goals. Now I have to forget about Turkey and try to do my best here."

Hasek is obviously happy to have these two players in his side, but insists his main job will be fashioning a decent team ethic.

"Good players is not the same as a good team," he said. "Good players means there is a possibility of getting good results, but you will get good results only if you have a good team.

"I watched many Ahli matches [from last season] on TV, Aljazeera and Dubai Sports, and I know the team is not bad. The only problem was they did not work together. They are good players, but there was no teamwork. It was absent.

"This is the most important thing we need to change. Everybody will have to work together for the results, starting member or not starting member. We will have to work as one to win the next game."

In the coming days, Hasek's primary focus will be on recreating the team spirit that saw them win the league in 2009.

"We cannot compare 2009 to the coming season. The league is different now and we have a different team as well," he said. "But I hope we can create the same kind of spirit in the team - the winning spirit.

"This is most important. You can have the best players in the world, but if you don't work as a team, you will not win anything. So all of us have to work together as one and not look further than the next game.

"One of the biggest clubs in the UAE finished eighth last season and nobody can be happy with that fact. So everybody will have to play their part as we try to bring the club back to the top."