Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) have announced earlier this week that they sacked Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta from his position as manager of the national team, and subsequently signed a contract with his compatriot Helio Dos Angos to prepare our national team for the Asian Cup in July. Paqueta, who still had nine months left in his contract when it was terminated, learned the news from newspapers. This is, imho, unprofessional on the behalf of SAFF, who should have at least told Paqueta earlier of their intentions to replace him.
However, it is not very unusual for SAFF to act this way. They have become very well-known for sacking managers irrationally since the 1970’s. An official at SAFF who spoke to the press described sacking Paqueta as a “tough decision,” which doesn’t seem to be the case, but whatever. He said they were not satisfied with the performance of the team during the World Cup, but decided to give him a second chance. When the team lost the Gulf Cup semifinal in December they could not take it anymore, and they “had to sack him,” he added.
I can’t for the life of me understand what SAFF were expecting; he is a coach, not a magician. I mean: were they seriously thinking that our team could go to the next round in the World Cup? This is just unrealistic; this is wishful thinking. Six months later, the team goes to Abu Dhabi as a favourite to win the Gulf Cup, but they find themselves out in the semifinal after losing to the hosts by a late goal of UAE’s wonder boy Ismail Matar, who went to win the cup in the first time in his country’s history. I think this should not be considered a major failure, especially when all critics in the region agreed that Saudi Arabia (and Oman) offered the best performance in the tournament.
Local sports press, in what has become some kind of a norm for them, began to circulate rumors and speculations about the fate of Paqueta and who is the next manager of the Green Falcons, in a fashion very similar to what we have seen with his predecessor Gabriel Calderon of Argentina. Obviously, it was only a matter of time, and SAFF, as usual, did not disappoint their ever decreasing base of fans. They remained faithful to their tradition of changing coaches before we even get familiar with the name of the last one.
Ironically, SAFF always talk about how they are committed to “scientific methods” when they make decisions on the future of our first national sport. However, I think the only progress they have made in the past ten years is this: we used to sack managers “on the spot” when our team don’t win, now we give them a few months to enjoy our sunny weather before sacking them.
Thanks to their “scientific methods,” Saudi Arabia have acquired such a bad reputation in the football market that most world class managers would decline to work here despite the large sums of money offered to them. Just take a quick look at the long list of managers who took the helm of the Saudi team since 1998 and you would not see any name that can be considered an internationally top manager. Why would any self-respecting manager compromise his history only to be sacked a few months later in a manner that will only damage his reputation?