Ahmed Al Marzouqi has admitted bringing icon Abel Braga back to Al Jazira last summer was a mistake and praised the impact Henk ten Cate has had on the club.
Brazilian Braga had led Jazira to their last title, the 2012 President’s Cup, and also captured the 2011/12 Pro-League title.
His much-heralded return, however, proved to be an unmitigated disaster. Jazira won three of 16 games in all competitions under the 63-year-old before he was jettisoned following a 4-0 loss to Fujairah on December 12.
Jazira team manager Al Marzouqui has revealed it was a bad decision to bring him back after a four-year absence.
“I like Abel Braga. I’m a good friend of his, but when he came back it was a long time from when he was last here,” said Al Marzouqi.
“A lot has changed in football. Abel came almost retired and this Jazira side now is young and hungry so it didn’t suit the team. The players were different, the motivation was different. We were thinking to bring in another coach but the fans put pressure on us and needed Braga. They needed a boost, but it wasn’t a good strategy.”
Al Marzouqi added that Braga also endured a lot of misfortune during his second stint with the Abu Dhabi giants.
He added: “(Mirko) Vucinic was injured, so was (Jefferson) Farfan, Ali Khaseif and Fares Juma were on military service. Abdulla Mousa, Bashir Saeed and Khalid Sabeal were out of the team. A lot of things went wrong and we started losing so were under pressure straight away. The team was low on morale. It was bad luck for Braga.”
Former Ajax coach Ten Cate salvaged a season that promised little when he took over by leading Jazira to a President’s Cup triumph over fierce rivals Al Ain a month ago. The Dutchman refused to be drawn on his future after the game, which remains uncertain, but Al Marzouqui is hopeful he will stay and continue the excellent work he has already done.
“He’s done a lot,” said Al Marzouqi. “People keep asking if he’s staying or going but his results can answer this question, not me. He came to the team with 11 points from 11 games, in 12th place. We were near relegation.
“He took us to seventh place and almost into the top four. We’ve won the President’s Cup. He really is a champion.”
Bar a disastrous run in the AFC Champions League, in which Jazira lost five and drew one of their six games, Ten Cate’s record in charge has been stellar. He lost just four of 13 Arabian Gulf League games and Al Marzouqi believes he has re-instilled hunger into the team ahead of next season.
“He came in when we were in a bad place,” said Al Marzouqi. “We are hungry, we attacked Al Ain and Al Ahli (in the President’s Cup). It’s the time now to attack those teams (in the league). We believe in him and we are happy with him.”