Red alert for Bahrain’s national football team

Special Red alert for Bahrain’s national football team
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Jaycee John feels some of his teammates lack hunger when playing for the national team. (AFP)
Special Red alert for Bahrain’s national football team
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Bahrain coach Miroslav Soukup has presided over a poor period for the Gulf nation. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2017
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Red alert for Bahrain’s national football team

Red alert for Bahrain’s national football team

ADELAIDE: Bahrain’s underachieving players have been questioned over a lack of passion and ambition by one of the country’s leading players of the past two decades.
The Gulf nation missed out on the final round of qualifying for both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and have failed to progress from the group stage at the last three AFC Asian Cups, resulting in Bahrain plummeting to 125th in the FIFA rankings, their lowest position since 2000. Jaycee John, who scored 12 goals in 47 appearances for Bahrain, said the slide is rooted in a chronic lack of depth and a poor attitude.
“Bahrain is a very small country and the guys who want to play football there are very, very few,” he told Arab News. “(So) it’s a bit difficult to have this high standard of wanting to do more and do more. They have one of the best supports from the FA, they have a good support system from the government, but the desire to play from the guys is lacking. Sometimes they don’t want it enough.
“And that is why football in Bahrain went a little bit down. There’s a lot of good players in Bahrain, but the problem is if they play one or two years and then don’t get what they want they start to lose interest in football.”
This, John said, is in stark contrast to his generation who were always striving for more and reaching for the stars. The first decade of the new millennium was a golden period for Bahraini football, with a fourth-placed finish at the 2004 AFC Asian Cup, together with second and third-placed finishes at the Gulf Cup in 2003 and 2004.
“The problem is this new generation, they don’t want it,” he added. “But the guys playing back then were hungry, they wanted to do more, they wanted to play.”
Bahrain are showing signs of the green shoots of recovery. They are top of their Asian Cup qualification group with two wins from four games and should, barring a calamitous run of form, qualify for the finals of the tournament in the UAE in 2019. They also showed what they are capable of in 2012 with a record 10-0 win over Indonesia.
“The footballers now just need to push more and more and I think with time we can get there again,” said John, who last played for Bahrain two years ago. “I think we can compete (with Gulf rivals).We have the right management and board members that can make the national team a big force in the Gulf. I think we can do that in one or two years because this generation of players they are very, very good.”
They are coached by Miroslav Soukup, the Czech who has been in charge since last year. He will look on with envy next month when Australia take on Honduras in a two-legged intercontinental playoff next month looking to become the first Asian nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup through the playoffs since Iran 20 years ago when, ironically enough, they defeated Australia in a thriller at the MCG in Melbourne. Since then the country that has come closest to qualifying has been Bahrain, who fell short in both 2005 and 2009 when they lost to Trinidad & Tobago (2-1) and New Zealand (1-0) respectively.
John still has trouble dealing with the loss against New Zealand.
“This game was so heartbreaking because we got a penalty and we had a chance to put the ball in the net and qualify for the World Cup, but we missed,” he told Arab News. “It’s something I can’t forget. Sometimes when I remember at home I get upset. I get angry with myself so I don’t like to think about it.”
As for his own future, John, who was born in Nigeria and debuted for Bahrain in 2006, says he hasn’t officially retired and hung up his international boots. He nows plays in Thailand for Bangkok United and is content to sit back and let the next generation get their chance.
“I won’t say I’m retired (from international football),” he said. “But at the same time, you have to give chances to the younger ones. I’m almost 32 now, so if they keep calling me (it means) they can’t find the young talent. Like I said, Bahrain is small so we have to give chances to the young ones, but if they keep calling me of course I’m going to honor it, I’d like to play. But I would like to see the younger ones coming up and keep fighting.”