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Schafer, UAE’s link to the Copa America

Schafer, UAE’s link to the Copa America

Schafer’s name would ring a bell to those associated with football the UAE, especially in Dubai and the Garden City of Al Ain.



By James Jose (senior Reporter)

Published: Mon 22 Jun 2015, 12:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:12 PM

Jamaica’s coach Winfried Schafer gestures during the first round Copa America 2015 match against Argentina. — Reuters

Jamaica’s coach Winfried Schafer gestures during the first round Copa America 2015 match against Argentina. — Reuters

Abu Dhabi — As Jamaica finally ended their brief campaign in the Copa America in Chile, there was a happy connection between the ‘Reggae Boyz’ and the UAE.

As Winfried Schafer patrolled the dug-out, one couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride that we had seen him in the flesh, doing the same at various stadiums here in the UAE. Schafer had coached clubs in the UAE and there he was, coaching a team in the Copa America.

Jamaica, one of the invited guests from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) along with Mexico, finished up as the basement boys in a tough Group B, dubbed the ‘Group of Death.’

But the fact that they could restrict defending champions Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina to solitary goal wins showed they are an improved lot under Schafer.

Schafer’s name would ring a bell to those associated with football the UAE, especially in Dubai and the Garden City of Al Ain. The 65-year-old is highly respected in UAE footballing circles after guiding Al Ahli and Al Ain to titles during his four-year stay.

Since joining on March 6, 2005, Schafer guided them to the UAE League (now rebranded the Arabian Gulf League) title in that same season to end a 25-year drought. The Red Knights had back then last won a League crown in the 1979-80 season.

He remained with Al Ahli for two seasons before making the switch to rivals Al Ain in December 2007. Schafer then had a trophy-laden two seasons with ‘The Boss.’ Al Ain won their one and their only Etisalat Emirates Cup (Arabian Gulf Cup) in the 2008-09 season.

Al Ain also went on to win the prestigious President’s Cup in the same season. Later, next season, the Garden City club also won the UAE Super Cup (now the Arabian Gulf Super Cup) in the 2009-10 season.

Schafer had come to the UAE with a big reputation of having coached Cameroon to the African Nations Cup in 2002.

After his stint in the UAE, Schafer went on to coach FK Baku for a season before joining Thailand for a two-year stint. He also coached Muangthong United.

Jamaica have improved by leaps and bounds under Schafer and are no more the whipping boys. They went down to Uruguay and Paraguay in their first two games before putting up a stiff fight against Argentina in Vina del Mar, on Saturday night.

Though Argentina played not at their usual pace, Jamaica did manage to tie down Lionel Messi, who was heavily marked. It was a learning experience to come up against the likes of Messi, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and later on Carlos Tevez. And Schafer believed they had come out better from it.

“Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, yet Di Maria was the man of the match. That means we did enough to stop Messi playing at his best, even if nobody can stop him completely,” Schafer told the official Copa America website.

After overcoming their nerves, Jamaica even managed to mount attacks in the second half but were found wanting when it came to their finishing.

james@khaleejtimes.com


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