LEAD — INTERVIEW WITH IRAQ COACH

Updated 05 September 2018

LEAD — INTERVIEW WITH IRAQ COACH

LONDON: New Iraq coach Srecko Katanec has asked for patience as he embarks on a three-year contract that he hopes will end with the Lions of Mesopotamia looking forward to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The Slovenian, appointed earlier this week, is a well-known figure in the region after a previous stint in charge of the UAE and is aware of the challenges involved with taking Iraq back to the global stage for the first time since their sole appearance back in 1986 in Mexico.
“I am happy and proud to be the new coach of Iraq but there is not going to be a quick solution,” Katanec told Arab News. “This is going to be a long process and it is going to take time to build the team at all levels. It is an exciting challenge however as there is a lot of talent in Iraq and if we can start moving in the right direction then I am confident that we can have success.”
While his first real test is at the 2019 Asian Cup in January, the former international has his sights set on Qatar 2022.
“The Asian Cup is an important tournament but it is also a major step in preparation for the start of qualification for the 2022 World Cup,” added Katanec. “That is the ultimate objective, to get to the World Cup.”
The first action for the new man is a friendly against local rivals Kuwait on Monday in Kuwait City, an early opportunity to check out his team.
“The Kuwait game is a good test for us to see where we are and realize what we have to do at the Asian Cup,” added Katanec. “First, though, I am enjoying seeing the players in training and spending time with them. There are some quality players for me to work with and I am looking forward to the job ahead.”
Four overseas players have been called up including full-back Ali Adnan who has just joined Atalanta in Serie A.
The appointment of the 55 year-old coach, who was released by the Slovenian national team last year after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, ends a lengthy search by the Iraq Football Association (IFA) to replace Basim Qasim.
According to reports in July, the Iraq Football Association (IFA) came close to a deal with former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson but the Swede eventually turned down the offer of a contract.
Katanec’s appointment has split opinion in Iraq. Some observers welcome the arrivial of a foreign coach relatively free from the political pressures and influence that domestic tacticians have to deal with. A three-year deal is also seen as a positive in the unstable world of Iraqi football.
According to officials at the IFA, the fact that Katanec has a reputation of being a coach who can organize a team well and make it harder to beat, was a major factor in his appointment.
Katanec, who played in the Bundesliga for Stuttgart and in Serie A with Sampdoria, can point to experience in the region after his time with the UAE from 2009 to 2011.
That experience ended badly however. The former Slovenian international was fired in September 2011 after a dismal qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup when UAE failed to reach the final round of qualification following five defeats out of six in the third round.
The Slovenian also has a point to prove at the 2019 Asian Cup after failure at the 2011 tournament. In Qatar, UAE failed to score a single goal and lost all three games against North Korea, Iran and, ironically, Iraq.
In January, with the tournament taking place in the UAE, Iraq will face Iran, Vietnam and Yemen in the group stage of the 2019 Asian Cup.


Formula One comes back to the track with Aramco as sponsors amid new coronavirus lockdown era

Updated 05 July 2020

Formula One comes back to the track with Aramco as sponsors amid new coronavirus lockdown era

  • The return to the track for F1 will also mark a first for Saudi Aramco that are sponsoring the global event
  • Lando Norris secured a career-best fourth place on the grid for McLaren for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix

DUBAI: Sunday will see the return of Formula One with the first race of the season since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world and closed the sport down.

The return to the track for F1 will also mark a first for Saudi Aramco that are sponsoring the global event.

“We are thrilled to be sponsoring Formula 1. Millions of people around the world saw Aramco’s branding along the racing circuit today for the first time,” read a statement from the Saudi oil giant.

“As the world’s largest energy supplier and an innovation leader, our ambition is to find game-changing solutions for better, more efficiently performing engines and cleaner energy. Partnerships such as this are important to help us to deliver this goal.”

 

Video courtesy of Aramco 

Lando Norris secured a career-best fourth place on the grid for McLaren for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix and admitted he had exceeded his own expectations.
The 20-year-old Briton qualified behind the pace-setting Mercedes pairing of pole sitter Valtteri Bottas and six-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, but ahead of both Ferraris and other strong rivals including Racing Point's speedy ‘pink Mercedes’ cars.
“We had our expectations of where we thought we wanted to be and from the very beginning the Racing Points have clearly been extremely quick,” said Norris, who is embarking on his second F1 season.
“We never thought we’d be in a chance of beating them or getting close to them so we are delighted with this and with the car performance.
“The car started to come alive and feel better and better as it went to lower fuel levels and this track was very good for us last year. So we have confidence in the car and feel it suits us at the moment.
“Hopefully, the race goes well and we have two (consecutive) weekends of this and, hopefully, we can repeat it as well.”
Norris will start the race - his and the sport’s first F1 race for 216 days - alongside Verstappen with Alex Albon in the second Red Bull and Racing Point's Sergio Perez behind him.
His Ferrari-bound McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz qualified eighth.

(With AFP)