x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Stricken Al Wasl coach Bruno Metsu being cheered on by a whole nation

The former UAE national manager, who is receiving treatment in hospital, has the love and best wishes of the entire football community, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Al Wasl coach Bruno Metsu is visited in hospital by board members from the club.
Al Wasl coach Bruno Metsu is visited in hospital by board members from the club.

Bruno Metsu has been receiving a steady stream of well-wishers at his hospital bed.

The recently retired Iran international Farhad Majidi travelled from his homeland to meet the ailing Frenchman.

Diego Maradona, Metsu's predecessor at Al Wasl, was also at the American Hospital in Dubai the other day, advising "Bruno Metsu to stay strong and not to think about his illness or any negativity that might affect his willpower or stamina".

The Argentine legend wished him a "speedy recovery" and hoped to see him "back on his feet amongst his players at Al Wasl as soon as possible".

Similar sentiments have been expressed by Pro League coaches such as Walter Zenga, Dzemal Hadziabdic and Quique Sanchez Flores.

"It is very horrible to see that a guy like Bruno is in trouble with his health and I wish all of the best to him and his family," Zenga, the Al Nasr coach, said on Saturday. "I'm praying that he can come back soon. I send to him one big hug and I hope that, Inshallah, everything is going to be OK."

Sanchez Flores, the Ahli coach, also remembered Metsu after his team's 5-1 win over rivals Al Shabab on Sunday.

Supporters of Ahli, Ajman and Al Ain, among others, displayed banners in support of the Wasl manager, who has been in hospital since October 15.

"He's a good coach, but, overall, he's a good person," Sanchez Flores said.

"Everybody loves Bruno Metsu. That stands for something and I liked the fact that the fans of Al Ahli Club put up a poster in support of Bruno Metsu."

Everybody does indeed love Metsu in this country and for good reasons. They might have been upset with him when he left Al Ain for the Qatari club Al Gharafa, or when he stepped down from the national team, but that anger was brief. It is not easy to forget his contribution to UAE football and the memories he has given the nation.

After a successful 2002 World Cup with Senegal, Metsu had offers from some of the biggest clubs in France and elsewhere in Europe, but he picked Al Ain.

Metsu made the country proud as well, guiding Al Ain to the AFC Champions League title in 2003. It was the first and only success for a UAE club at the continental championships. A year later, though, he packed his bags and went to Gharafa.

He was back, though, in June, 2006, as coach of the UAE national team.

"Many people had warned me about coming here," Metsu told The National in 2008. "They told me it would be a backward move and I will face a lot of difficulties. But I took up the challenge and I don't think I have had any reasons to regret it. I am very proud of what I am doing here."

Metsu set two targets for himself and the national team: winning the 2007 Gulf Cup and qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. He achieved the first, helping the country win its first major title.

But two defeats at home, to North Korea and Saudi Arabia, in the first two matches of the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup made Metsu realise he would not be able to meet his second target. And he resigned, paying the US$1 million (Dh3.7m) penalty clause.

At his second farewell press conference, he said: "I am sure everybody wants to ask this one question: why am I leaving? First, because I love football and I don't like to lose. Second, I need to pay the penalty [for the losses].

"I could have stayed on and waited till the end of qualifying. Then, I would not have had to pay the penalty clause, but I am a man of principles, a man who respects his work and his profession."

Metsu was also unhappy with his players' lack of "fighting spirit" and publicly questioned their commitment. "I want this kamikaze attitude in the team," he said. "I want my players to sacrifice everything for a win."

The Frenchman managed to generate that kind of passion among his Al Ain players of 2003 and also the national team in 2007. Mohammed Omar, a member of both those teams, confirmed this earlier in the summer when Metsu was announced as Maradona's replacement at Wasl.

"I never worked with a coach like Metsu," Omar said.

"He had very high modern ideas and tactics. You cannot believe how we trained for that AFC Champions League with Al Ain. We were ready 200 per cent, mentally, physically, we were ready like lions. We waited for the referee to blow his whistle and we would eat anything in front of us.

"We had confidence, we had belief and we were a team. This is what Metsu does."

And that should explain the outpouring of support for the ailing maestro.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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