A day with Emirati scout Omar Yabroudi

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Omar Yabroudi turned down a move to 1860 Munich in order to work with Edgar Davids.

In 2012, Omar Yabroudi was on the verge of starting a new life in Germany when he took a phone call from Dutch legend Edgar Davids. 

The pair had met while Omar was a youth team analyst at Crystal Palace and Davids was able to convince the Emirati to turn his back on becoming 1860 Munich’s first-ever international scout, to move to the less salubrious surrounds of Barnet and England’s League Two.

Barnet slipped out of the Football League the following summer, while Davids left in January, 2014. However, Yabroudi, who had left Dubai as a teenager, remained as performance analyst and head of recruitment.

This season he helped the club return to the Football League as Conference Premier champions, with current Bees boss Martin Allen speaking glowingly of the 25-year-old’s contribution to the success.

As he enjoyed a well-earned end-of-season break, Sport360 caught up with Yabroudi. Interview by Martyn Thomas.

How does it feel to have secured promotion back to the Football League?

Words can’t explain the feeling after the final whistle went. The first couple of days it didn’t really sink in, the feeling that we have actually got promoted. Only one team gets automatically promoted from that league, so it’s a tough one. I’m ecstatic, it’s such a good feeling to know that your hard work is being rewarded.

Was promotion the aim from the beginning of the season?

We knew what we wanted to do. Now, in order to do that sometimes it takes time, it’s a project. Once Barnet got relegated (from League Two in 2013), the upheaval in terms of staff and players was immediate and it did take some time for it to click. But giving credit where credit is due, Martin Allen came in and he made some key signings. From experience, the key area of success on the pitch is recruitment, it’s the players you have. You can be a good coach but if you don’t have the players, you aren’t going to go anywhere. It’s very simple. And the recruitment was great. 

What are your day-to-day duties at Barnet?

My primary role is performance analysis, which is divided into two sectors. So, the first sector would be post-match analysis. Say we were playing Bristol Rovers, once we had played them I would then dissect certain aspects of the games. We would sit down first thing on Tuesday morning at 8 o’clock, and we would go through this together. Obviously, the manager would make notes and digest some of the stuff that was seen, and translate it onto the training pitch. Then on the Thursday, it would be opposition analysis. So, that’s basically studying our opposition on the coming Saturday. My job would be to identify their strengths and weaknesses, any trends on their goals scored, goals conceded, set pieces.

Mentor: Yabroudi sights Dutch legend Edgar Davids as a key influencer on his career.

Do you still keep in touch with Davids?

Yes, I’m always in touch with Edgar. He’s one of the biggest names in football and more importantly he is the one who opened the door for me to move into the football industry. I am very grateful to him because one thing led to another and I am very lucky to have met someone of his calibre, character and experience. You can always learn from such great individuals.

Do you see yourself working at a higher level?

Just like in any line of work an individual always wants to work at the highest level, and that would apply with anybody. I am very ambitious as an individual and that is definitely my aim to work at a much-higher level. But for me, it is all about learning from the grass roots. You have to go through the nitty-gritty stuff at the bottom because that is where you actually grasp a lot of things that you can use at the higher level. Moving from Palace’s youth team to Barnet was the right decision, it was a great learning curve and a great experience, and is something I will always remember.

Do you ever see yourself returning to work in the UAE?

Yes, absolutely. I’m an analyst now but I obviously want to move into management. So, even if I was to become a coach or a manager, which is what I am working towards, I will always carry everything that I learn with me. I would always acknowledge the importance of having an analyst, because it’s so important to be able to reflect and act upon your own performance and how to overturn opposition. I do believe that over time I will be back in the UAE and I will prove my worth to the country. Whether it’s in that line or whether it’s being a coach or the manager for the national team, which is my aim, that only God knows and hopefully I will work my way towards that.

Moving forward: National coach Mahdi Ali has made the UAE competitive.

Do you think Mahdi Ali has opened the door for Emirati coaches in the UAE?

Absolutely. I have to say, it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch the UAE play so beautifully and more importantly achieve so much in such a short space of time. Mahdi Ali has done a fantastic job. If you think about it, the country is not even 50 years old so to be able to actually mould a team that makes it to the Olympics to play against the likes of Great Britain that is a sign of great progress. And it is a sign of character and hunger from people from our society. Mahdi Ali is second to none in terms of leading that pathway for other Emiratis like myself to drive through.

Do you think national team players should be encouraged to move abroad?

It is absolutely crucial. To be a successful international team you have to have core players in your international squad playing in Europe because of the experience. As a player, you jump a lot of steps in terms of your ability – whether it’s technical, mental or physical, you become better players. So, when you increase playing talent you have higher chances of succeeding. You need to maximise your talent by being nurtured in the right environment. For me, I would like to see further Emiratis like myself – whether it’s staff or players – move to Europe, because it’s going to act as a catalyst. a day with Picture: Andre

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Giorgio Chiellini back to his best to inspire Juventus

Adam Digby 21/05/2015
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Chiellini (r) picks up the Coppa Italia trophy.

Juventus entered Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday in search of history. The Bianconeri had gone two decades without winning the Coppa Italia, not lifting it since Marcello Lippi’s first season as coach back in 1995. In the opposing corner was a Lazio side hungry to add some silverware to their own remarkable campaign, which sees them on the brink of returning to the Champions League after an eight-year absence.

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Stefano Pioli and Max Allegri are arguably the front-runners for the Coach of the Year award on the peninsula, both men getting the majority of their decisions correct in difficult circumstances as each made vital improvements to the team he inherited. The former – himself a European Cup winner with Juventus as a player – has turned around Lazio’s fortunes, arresting a slide that saw them slip to a ninth-place finish in 2013-14.

Now sitting pretty in third, Pioli’s achievements were somewhat matched by the man sitting in the adjacent dugout, with Allegri improving on the relentless success enjoyed by the Old Lady under Antonio Conte. Allegri has married a wonderful attacking freedom to the defensive solidity that was already in place, unleashing the potential that had perhaps been previously restrained. The likes of Carlos Tevez, Roberto Pereyra and Alvaro Morata have all thrived, although the Bianconeri were forced to cope without the latter in the final.

Like Claudio Marchisio, the Spanish striker was suspended due to his booking in the semi-final win over Fiorentina, while Allegri was bold enough to start the match with Gigi Buffon beside him on the bench. Marco Storari has deputised for the World Cup winner throughout this competition, and Allegri resisted the temptation to recall his number one in pursuit of cup glory. Sadly for the Turin giants, Storari’s first act of the final was to pick the ball out of his goal after being beaten by a strong header from Stefan Radu just four minutes in.

Luckily for those of a black and white persuasion, the Lazio lead would not last long, a free kick just seven minutes later presenting Andrea Pirlo with an opportunity to restore parity. His ball into the box picked out Patrice Evra perfectly, the Frenchman heading back across goal in the direction of Giorgio Chiellini. Usually Juve’s most cumbersome player, the big defender swivelled quickly, despatching a well-struck overhead kick beyond Etrit Berisha.

“We did well to never give in, remain united and fight for every ball, then we have players who can change a game. We really wanted this trophy and now will enjoy it to the full.”Giorgio Chiellini

In Buffon’s absence, Chiellini was handed the armband and he was the undisputed leader of the side during a tricky encounter. It has not been a season to remember for Chiellini. Prior to this final, the usually reliable Tuscan had failed to match his own high standards in an error-strewn campaign, punctuated by embarrassing slips against both Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco in the Champions League. Fortunate not to be sent off for a ludicrous handball against the latter, he was also responsible for the penalty scored by Cristiano Ronaldo at the semi-final stage of the same competition last week, his rash challenge on James Rodriguez handing the Spanish side a lifeline from which Juve were fortunate to recover.

The Juventus captain won two tackles, seven interceptions and made eight clearances as his equaliser – remarkably his first goal of 2014-15 – seemed to spark the old Chiellini into life. From the moment he roared in celebration he turned in an excellent display in a match that threatened to go to penalties before Alessandro Matri popped up with a late winner in extra-time.

Just like that, Juventus ended their drought in knockout competitions, which spans an incredible sixteen years, clinching only the third domestic double in their history. The Champions League final still remains, as does the dream of even greater glory when Juventus face Barcelona on June 6. For now they will enjoy their tenth Coppa Italia triumph, built upon a throwback performance from a revived Chiellini.

 

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Juventus win Coppa Italia to keep treble hopes alive

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Champions again: Juventus.

Substitute Alessandro Matri netted an extra-time winner as Juventus defeated Lazio in the Coppa Italia final in Rome on Wednesday night to keep their hopes of a historic treble alive.

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Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, acting as captain on the night, cancelled out Lazio skipper Stefan Radu’s opener in the 11th minute.

Both sides had chances to win the game in normal time but could not find the finishing touch. Matri came to the rescue seven minutes into the first half of extra-time when he struck the ball from 10 yards to beat Lazio goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and hand the Serie A champions their 10th Italian Cup and first in 20 years.

Without suspended striker Alvaro Morata, whose goals against Real Madrid lifted Juve into the Champions League final on June 6, coach Massimiliano Allegri fielded Fernando Llorente alongside Serie A’s top scorer Carlos Tevez in attack.

Lazio got off to a great start and went in front when Radu headed Danilo Cataldi’s free-kick past Juventus goalkeeper Marco Storari. Juve pulled level soon after. 

Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick was knocked down by Patrice Evra, leaving Chiellini to smash the ball from six yards and beat Berisha. In the 25th minute, Llorente headed Evra’s cross over the bar.

Match-winner: Matri.

Two minutes later and a fast counter-attack by Lazio saw Felipe Anderson sent Cataldi through on goal but his effort lacked pace and did not trouble Berisha. Before the interval, Marco Parolo’s stinging drive from 25 yards went wide of the far post.

One minute after the re-start, Berisha had to come off his line to clear a dangerous ball with Llorente ready to pounce. In the 55th minute, Tevez fed Paul Pogba in the box and the Frenchman’s goal-bound attempt was blocked by a defender.

Lazio were struggling to break Juve’s defence and were limited to shooting from outside of the area, as Miroslav Klose cut a frustrated figure trying to find space in the box.

Before the hour, Parolo drilled a right-footed strike that went over the bar while, minutes later, Gentiletti’s powerful free-kick found the stands.

Lazio pushed forward more aggressively and came close to scoring before the end of regulation. In the 84th minute, Lazio substitute Filip Djordjevic had a great opportunity but failed to beat Storari in a one-on-one, with his shot kept out by the keeper.

Three minutes later and Matri had a goal disallowed for offside. Lazio could not believe their luck once play resumed when Djordjevic’s left-footed strike beat Storari but hit both posts.

Juve then found the winner. Matri pounced on a loose ball in Lazio’s area and struck a 10-yard bullet to beat Berisha. Lazio could not find a way through as Juve held on for victory at the Stadio Olimpico.

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