27 Dec 2017 - 9:22
Iraq fought back after conceding an early goal to beat defending champions Qatar 2-1 in their Gulf Cup match at Kuwait Sports Club Stadium yesterday.
27 Dec 2017 - 9:40
Kuwait, Yemen’s inspirational football coach Abraham Mebratu feels the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will take the game to new heights in the region and Asia at large.
“It will be historic. The hosting of the World Cup in Qatar will give a lot of benefits not only to the hosting country but to other nations of the region as well,” Mebratu told The Peninsula in a candid chat.
Mebratu has all but guided Yemen to the finals of the Asian Cup 2019 as the team is just one win away from sealing a direct berth “It (hosting of the World Cup) is also good for Asia. It will give great motivation for players around the region to be there,” the 47-year-old Ethiopian added.
“I have been to Qatar many times. The stadiums in Qatar are superb. The infrastructure is just world-class. Their preparations are amazing. It will be history in the making,” he said,
Excerpts from a chat with Mebratu on the sidelines of the Gulf Cup:
Q: How’s your coaching experience been like with the Yemen team?
A: Before I came to being in-charge of the Yemen national football team, I helped the juniors qualify for an Asian tournament in Oman. That was the first time in the history of Yemen that they had reached an international event. After that I came to Yemen and resumed my regular job as an advisor and director of the national teams. So after the league stopped three years ago because of the situation back home and when most of foreigners refused to come to Yemen, I was asked to take over of the national team. Since then I am leading the team.
“Before the match on Saturday, I had never lost a game with this team. Now we are very close to qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup. That will be the first time if we win against Nepal in Doha next March. We play all our Asian Cup qualifying matches in Doha. That would be historic as far as this team is concerned. That’s my experience with the Yemen football set up.
Q: You talk passionately about football at press conferences. Is yours a satisfying coaching job or a frustrating one at times?
A: It’s challenging. I like challenges. We work in very difficult situation but we are almost through to the Asian Cup finals. That makes me happy. With a lot of facilities and support (in previous years) they couldn’t reach the finals of any Asian Cup. Now that the league has stopped for last three years. That has affected the performance of the national team players. So it is very difficult situation but thank God we are in a good position and almost there at the Asian Cup.
Q: Do you think the standard of football has improved across the region?
A: During Gulf Cup competition, the playing standard becomes high. It feels as if we are playing World Cup qualifying matches. Yes, that’s how I feel. There is a lot of animosity among the teams as they try to do better every game. Even in the past it was like that. I remember when we hosted Gulf Cup in 2010, our team was prepared for the event for one year.
“They played something like 16 international friendlies in the build up. They had training camps in Holland and Turkey. They give so much attention to this event. So yes, the playing standards have improved a lot across the region. The teams have come up in the last three or four years. Saudi Arabia is going to the World Cup. Emirates have done well. Iran and Iraq as well.
Q: What’s your take on 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar? Will that event lead the way for Asian football?
A: Definitely. No doubt about it. The hosting of the World Cup will give a lot of benefits not only to Qatar but to other nations in the region as well. It (the hosting of the World Cup) is also good for Asia. It will give great motivation for players around the region to be there.
“I have been to Qatar many times. All our matches are played in Doha. The stadiums in Qatar are superb. The infrastructure is just world-class. Their preparations are amazing. It will be history in the making. I am very close to Doha. Our office is there and I get all information on their preparation. I feel it will be history in the making.