Players and staff of the Umm Salal SC Under-23 team celebrate their victory in theQFA Radiff League.

Jamaican football Coach Miguel Coley is not in the oil-rich nation of Qatar vacationing. Instead, he has buckled down in the pursuit of making an impact on that country's football landscape.

He has been doing that.

But Coley's football crusade in the Middle East does not stop in Qatar, for he has — as wingman for German Winfried Schaefer — tasted the football cherry in Iran and the United Arab Emirates with success coming in both countries.

“Winning the Hafzi Cup in Iran was amazing with Esteghlal FC to bring joy to over 30 million fans was amazing, plus to play in the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League with Esteghlal FC and semi-finals of the President Cup in the UAE with Baniyas were also amazing moments with Coach Schaefer,” Coley told the Jamaica Observer from his home in Umm Salal where his current club of the same name is based.

The Jamaican had only join the Qatar Stars League outfit, which boasts the distinction of being the first Qatari club to make it to the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League, and success was almost instant.

As head of the second team and assistant to the club's first team lead by Wesam Rizik, Coley was instrumental in the recent successes.

On March 16, his Under-23s were crowned champions of the QFA Radiff League.

“I have been with this club since November and have only lost one game and drew one.

“As it relates to the overall season both teams have performed credible well. The first team finished in sixth position (best placed in the club's history) and as you know, the reserves won their league,” Coley said.

“I love winning, but I was very happy for the players, the club and our president. Having the Qatar Football Association Cup left to play for, there is now a big buzz around the club and this can only mean more support and better results in the immediate future,” he added.

Coley, 39, said while the two teams compete in different competitions, it's the same set of players who are rotated throughout the season.

“Technically, it's the same team as each club registers 28 players who play in both leagues based on availability. They would play against the same teams that are in the pro league,” Coley shared.

The former Jamaica College coach, whose success at the Old Hopd Road school is unmatched, said football in the Qatar during the novel coronavirus pandemic was not seriously impacted.

“It has not been difficult, to be honest, as clubs have followed the mandatory vaccination rule, small number of fans can attend games, the use of application such as EHTERAZ (contact tracing application for Qatar) has kept the cases at a minimum within the society, and as such, the football league, wasn't disrupted.”

The former Reggae Boyz assistant coach says many people may not be aware of how much the football infrastructure in the Middle East, and World Cup host nation Qatar, in particular, has grown.

“I don't think persons understand the magnitude of the football in Asia and Qatar. The league in Qatar is developing and is home to some of the best professional players; some may have passed their prime, but younger players like James Rodriquez (Colombia and former Real Madrid star) plays here in the league,” the Jamaica noted.

Coley says without a doubt his coaching development has made quantum leaps since arriving in the Middle East.

“I feel I have developed more as a coach as working in a professional environment with players and coaches from all over the world in itself is knowledge at your front door. Knowledge that I won't shy away from.

“Coaching is management, and as I read more, and become more in tuned with my social and emotional intelligence, I find myself getting better response from players,” he shared.

Coley stated that the opportunity to have a rich cross cultural pool of players adds to the intrigue of coaching in the region and his current club Umm Salal SC.

“Your challenge is to manage players from a wide cross section of cultures, ethnicities and religions. So, within an environment like this, I have surely grown.

“Having world-class medical staff, great working facilities, playing in some of the best stadiums and against world-class coaches and players is an incredible and most valuable experience,” Coley reasoned.

And the enduring question that the former player faces is whether he would come back to coach at the senior Reggae Boyz level.

“I would embrace the opportunity to be a part of the national senior set-up in the future, thanks to Coach Schaefer, I have gotten great experience coaching in a Gold Cup final, coaching in two Copa America [tournaments], and winning a Caribbean Cup along the way.

“I believe I am an innovative coach, who is very proactive; moments of transition are important to me while giving players freedom to be creative, to enjoy the game and to be tactically disciplined. My style of coaching is impacted a lot by my authenticity as a coach and as a person,” Coley asserted.

He tip-toed around the issue of Jamaica's failure to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, fearing his comments may be interpreted as pitching for the head coach job of the Boyz.

“I honestly try not to speak too much about the Reggae Boyz as many think I am out here campaigning for the job. It's clear to see the missteps. However, problem won't be solved just by removing a head coach, it will have to go deeper than that in an unbiased way for the interest of the football.

“I believe everyone loves the football, wants the team to do well, but it has to be one direction, with cohesion, principles, planning, restructuring and with the players at the centre. The game is for the players and fans,” was as far as Coley was prepared to venture on that hot topic.

COLEY...I love winning, but I was very happy forthe players, the club and our president
BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Deputy Sport Editor

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