Winning the Gulf Cup has never been merely a tactical issue resting on the technical staff but more of a psychological warfare, which makes the officials of each football association share the responsibility of preparing their players for the tough regional competition.
Speaking from experience, I can say it’s a mental game in which the print and electronic media in each country are used to the benefit of their national teams.
But the problem is that in many cases, the media from participating countries create pressure on the players — resulting in their teams’ exit from the race for the title.
It’s no different in the ongoing 21st edition of the event, where there are already newspapers and TV channels demanding change of their teams’ coaches following their players’ performance and results in their opening matches. In Saudi Arabia, newspapers have not only started asking for the head of Frank Rijkaard, their Dutch head coach, but also suggested the appointment of Nasir Al Jawhar, a Saudi coach, to lead the team instead.
As the Dutch legend Rijkaard said, the pressure upon the players of the Saudi team from their sports media is greater than the pressures upon the players of Barcelona. As a former coach of Barcelona, Rijkaard surely knows what he is talking about.
In Qatar, the UAE’s 3-1 victory over Qatar has made so many angry that they have lost all logic. Instead of blaming their players and coach for the defeat, they have tried to belittle the UAE coach, Mahdi Ali, with one newspaper writing under the heading “Believe it or Not”: Who believes that a coach who started his life as an electrician dreams of winning the Gulf Cup?
Frenchman Paul Le Guen, the head coach of Oman, looks set to be the first victim of the Gulf Cup as his team failed to collect more than one point in two matches and need a miracle to move to the semi-finals.
His Argentinean counterpart, Gabriel Calderon, is treading through the same dark tunnel with the hosts Bahrain.
Sacking coaches is a tradition in the Gulf Cup, ever since it was launched way back in 1970. It continues as four of the eight coaches in this competition are expected to be fired at the end of the preliminary round next week.