Miguel Co­ley re­calls thrills and spills coach­ing in the Mid­dle East

...Ja­maican says he’s grown leaps and bounds as foot­ball coach

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - SPORT - BY SEAN A WIL­LIAMS Deputy Sport Edi­tor

Life in the desert — at first glance — con­jures up scary im­ages of chal­lenge, suf­fer­ing even.

But in the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE), there ex­ists a mir­a­cle of man — an an­cient sandy wilder­ness trans­formed into a modern oa­sis con­sist­ing of life’s finest things as ev­i­denced in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

There, and in not far away Qatar, life is good. Very good. But to truly know it, one must feel it and taste it, and to do so, one must live it.

Many Ja­maicans have seized op­por­tu­ni­ties in var­ied fields in this far­away man-made par­adise, thou­sands of miles away from the well-trav­elled routes — the USA, Canada and Eng­land — they have called home for many years.

In sport, a Ja­maican foot­ball coach, with his fam­ily in tow is savour­ing life from all an­gles in the Mid­dle East and says he is in “no rush” to leave.

Miguel Co­ley, the dec­o­rated coach of Ja­maica Col­lege (JC) fame, has been liv­ing and work­ing in that part of the world as an as­sis­tant coach, firstly with Ira­nian topflight club Estegh­lal FC and re­cently with Abu Dhabi-based Baniyas FC that com­petes in the UAE Pro League.

At the mo­ment, Co­ley is with­out a club as his part­ner and men­tor, the Ger­man Win­fried Schaefer de­clined to sign a new deal with Baniyas re­cently af­ter join­ing the out­fit in 2019.

“I am presently in the UAE, but I am with­out club at he mo­ment as the head coach [Schaefer] de­cided not to re­new the con­tract with the Baniyas Foot­ball Club.

“We are presently look­ing at some other club op­tions. At Baniyas, I was the as­sis­tant coach of the team mostly re­spon­si­ble for tac­ti­cal train­ing and game an­a­lyst,” Co­ley shared with the Ja­maica Ob­server from the UAE re­cently.

Be­fore thread­ing fur­ther into the story, it’s note­wor­thy that Co­ley is a trail­blazer by be­com­ing the Ja­maican foot­ball coach to prac­tice his trade in the heart of the Is­lam-shaped re­gion.

The Ja­maican, who packed his bag and headed off into the un­known with Schaefer in early 2018, says he re­spects the high level of struc­ture and or­gan­i­sa­tion of foot­ball in the UAE.

“It’s very good coach­ing in the United Arab Emi­rates; it’s very pro­fes­sional, or­gan­ised and the league is well struc­tured,” Co­ley said.

Teams in the Pro League com­pete for three tro­phies yearly — the League, Pres­i­dent’s, and the Eti­salat Cups.

Apart from the or­gan­i­sa­tional com­pe­tence, Co­ley thinks the UAE hits the spot when it comes to the moder­nity of its sta­dia and the vi­sion­ary think­ing of those who are en­trusted in de­vel­op­ing the club plat­form in the re­gion.

But the Ja­maican is left be­mused that while foot­ball ap­pears the most widely played sport in some of the most ma­jes­tic fa­cil­i­ties in the world, the tal­ent on the field of­ten per­form to scarcely pop­u­lated sta­dia.

“The fa­cil­i­ties are fan­tas­tic, world­class to say the least and that was high­lighted when they [UAE] hosted the World Club league in 2018, and at Baniyas FC the at­mos­phere was good,” he noted.

“Foot­ball is their main sport, but the fan base is not so big. Teams like Al Ain, Al Wahda, Al Shabab, Al Jazira and Shar­jah are some of the big­ger clubs, but still their sta­di­ums are not nec­es­sar­ily filled on a game by game ba­sis,” Co­ley ob­served.

The Manch­ester na­tive, who served as as­sis­tant to the colour­ful Schaefer dur­ing their joint Reg­gae Boyz stint, said at Baniyas while there were no ti­tles to boast of, a key goal was achieved.

“I be­lieve the head coach did well con­trol­ling the chang­ing room and play­ers were very dis­ci­plined. We had a very young team last sea­son as the club model was one of de­vel­op­ing play­ers.

“We re­alise that re­sults are im­por­tant to at­mos­phere, but play­ers kept pro­fes­sional and did their jobs and were ea­ger to be bet­ter. As you know, man­age­ment all over the world loves to win; but I be­lieve we were given time to de­velop the young play­ers in the club and I be­lieve that was achieved,” Co­ley noted.

The 38-year-old says a cru­cial plank of the club’s fo­cus last year was to for­ward-plan, nur­tur­ing the young flock of play­ers into a solid unit over two years and one ca­pa­ble of re­al­is­ti­cally chal­leng­ing for ti­tles.

“Last year we had a man­date of de­vel­op­ing the young team as the club would want to com­pete for cham­pi­onships the next two years. We were knocked out in the Pres­i­dent’s Cup at the semi-fi­nal stage and were as­cend­ing in the league ta­ble when the league was can­celled [due to coron­avirus]. So to some ex­tent, the ob­jec­tive was achieved,” Co­ley stated.

He out­lined that, like the multi-cul­tural melt­ing pot of the UAE, pro­fes­sional foot­ball has an in­ter­na­tional flavour to it.

“We have play­ers from all over… we had play­ers from Brazil, Spain, South Africa, Por­tu­gal, Tan­za­nia and Ser­bia.

“How­ever, if over­seas play­ers are not per­form­ing, they [club] tends to can­cel their con­tract quickly; I have seen where play­ers’ con­tracts are ter­mi­nated dur­ing pre­sea­son,” Co­ley ex­plained.

He said, how­ever, that Ja­maican play­ers could im­pact foot­ball in the emi­rates, and he is aware of ef­forts to pave the way for some of them to get op­por­tu­ni­ties there.

“It would be a great mar­ket for Ja­maicans to ex­plore. How­ever, most of the clubs go for older play­ers from big Euro­pean clubs and younger play­ers from Africa and South Amer­ica.

“Still, it would be great to get a Ja­maican player this side to create waves and open eyes to the tal­ent in our coun­try. I am in talks with agents about our play­ers and hope soon some­thing can hap­pen,” Co­ley said.

While the UAE is rooted in its Mus­lim cul­ture and its idio­syn­cra­sies, Co­ley says adapt­ing was seam­less.

“It [UAE] doesn’t man­date that one must be­come a Mus­lim, but that you re­spect their re­li­gion. Ma­jor­ity of the per­sons liv­ing in the UAE are from out­side, hence it’s multi-cul­tural. With cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which is the tourism hub, they are very re­laxed and peace­ful places to work, raise a fam­ily and de­velop one­self,” Co­ley rea­soned.

With the coron­avirus pan­demic re­set­ting life as it has come to be known, the Ja­maican am­bas­sador thinks the monar­chi­cal state was quick in its re­sponse to the threat.

“The state has done a very good job in terms of re­duc­ing the spread of COVID-19. They were proac­tive and im­ple­mented ways and best prac­tices of go­ing about curb­ing the deadly virus.

“All at­trac­tions, and other places of gath­er­ing, were tem­po­rary closed, and most peo­ple worked from home and cer­tain stan­dards and san­i­ta­tion pro­grammes were used. There were se­ri­ous fines for break­ing rules and per­sons were not al­lowed to travel to dif­fer­ent cities or emi­rates.

“How­ever, when schools and at­trac­tions were open on a phased ba­sis there was a rise in the num­ber, but it has been man­aged as best as pos­si­ble,” Co­ley noted.

In terms of his stint with Schaefer at Estegh­lal, that ride was seen as bit­ter­sweet.

“It was very good coach­ing in Iran. First of all, the fans are amaz­ing and the play­ers are very good. How­ever, there were al­ways is­sues with the man­age­ment. I won’t get in-depth in this mat­ter as I have a case against the club in CAS [Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sports].

“Yes, they were happy to have me in their coun­try, and the fans are so fa­nat­i­cal about foot­ball, it was dif­fi­cult to travel in the streets and go to malls as fans would be rush­ing you. Sta­di­ums were al­ways filled out… sta­di­ums had 90,000 peo­ple, es­pe­cially dur­ing derby games,” notes Co­ley, as he re­flected on his coach­ing post in the Mid­dle East.

He said the time spent at the Tehran­based club was a suc­cess story in part.

“Dur­ing our time in Iran, we won the knock­out tour­na­ment in 2018 [Hazfi Cup] and we went to the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Asian Cham­pi­ons League and sec­ond place in the League in 2018,” Co­ley boasts.

As far as his per­sonal de­vel­op­ment goes, the for­mer Bar­bican FC tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor be­lieves his knowl­edge of the game has grown leaps and bounds since mov­ing over­seas.

“I have im­proved a lot in match anal­y­sis, de­vel­op­ing a coach­ing method­ol­ogy and day by day man­age­ment with a club struc­ture. I have done my Asian Coach­ing A li­cence and be­lieve that I am a bet­ter coach based on my ex­pe­ri­ence and con­stant re­search on dif­fer­ent as­pects of the game,” Co­ley con­cluded.

As­sis­tant Baniyas FC coach, Ja­maican Miguel Co­ley, barks in­struc­tions from the touch­line dur­ing a UAE pro league match.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Jamaica

© PressReader. All rights reserved.