11 Jan 2018 - 0:00
Verbeek delighted with football’s rise in the Gulf
By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula
DOHA: Oman’s Gulf Cup winning coach Peter Tim Verbeek says football teams from the region have ‘become better organised’ while playing international football matches.
The 61-year-old, formerly with Australia and South Korea national teams, was asked to give up his semi-retirement coaching duties by the Oman Football Association in 2016.
Since then he has had the chance to follow the game in the Middle East from close quarters and last Friday the popular coach guided Oman to a historic first Gulf Cup title win in Kuwait.
“My experience in Asia or the Middle East tells me the teams are improving. Every game I see that the defensive organisation with all teams is great. You can see they are doing well,” Verbeek said in an exclusive chat with The Peninsula.
“I think it is difficult to score goals nowadays. How many goals did the top teams score in the Gulf Cup? Not many. It is not easy to score goals. You can see that every team is well organised,” he added.
Here’s a Q&A session with Verbeek who guided Oman to Gulf Cup victory last Friday:
Q: You said it was difficult to score goals at the Gulf Cup. Are the teams getting better?
A: I think so. Every game I see that the defensive organisation with all teams is great. You can see they are doing well. It is not just attacking. They are better at the back as they can defend with 8-9 players. They pick up second balls. My experience in Asia and the Middle East tells me the teams are improving. We (Oman) have good players. We don’t have special players but yes, we have good players. They have talent. They will improve in the coming years. But we are not good enough to say ‘that we can win every game’. I think that’s difficult. There was so much pressure on this tournament. Every team wanted to win it. Like I said in one of the press conferences there were six teams that could have reached the semi-finals.
Q: Do you think the Gulf Cup teams are well organised now?
A: I think it is difficult to score goals nowadays. It is not easy to score goals. You can see that every team is well organised. It is not easy because defence is good for all the teams. Sometimes people focus on a team that you don’t score but the point is teams are very good at the back.
Q: Clearly this means football in this part of the world is on the rise?
A: Yes. I played many games with teams in the Middle East when I was with the Australian team. Then I was with the South Korean team also. We (the teams that Verbeek managed) never had problems that we faced sides from the Middle East. We beat them. But now when I see them, I see them organised. And I feel ‘wow, they are getting better’. You see the results from the last World Cup qualifying matches of the Qatari team, the Iraqi side ... you can see them improving. The gap is getting closer. That’s good. I think for the Middle East football especially with more teams set to feature at the coming World Cup editions. I think if you keep improving like this, it will be more difficult to qualify.
Q: Do you think the World Cup in Qatar will actually help football improve in the region?
A: Absolutely. The World Cup in Qatar will be fantastic. Look how many fans were in Kuwait from Qatar and for the other teams. The attention on this event was great. The media was there in large numbers. I know that everybody in this region knows everything about football. So they all watch football. They all follow the games. I think football is big part of entertainment in this region. I am sure many fans will come to the World Cup in Qatar also.
Q: You had visited Qatar as the coach of the Australia side for a World Cup qualifying game. What’s your opinion about the football culture in Qatar?
A: They are changing the team. The players from my time are not there. In 2009-10 we played four times against Qatar and we didn’t have so many problems at that time. I think we won three of the four games. One was a draw. But you can see the difference now. They are talented. They were not lucky in the Gulf Cup. They don’t have the experience yet to overcome such disappointments but in two years’ time if they can keep working, they can do a better job. As long as they have a plan and keep that plan, they will keep improving. It’s all about the plan (smiles).
Q: You’ve coached a number of top teams. Are you enjoying your time as Oman coach?
A: I have been with the Australian national team. I also worked with the Korean national team. Yes, you could call me a globetrotter (smiles). It’s what I like. I like the atmosphere in the stadiums. It is a beautiful country. Very nice people. Oman loves to play football and the fans love football players. I am enjoying myself. I am more than happy to be here in the Middle East. I always wanted to spend time in the Middle East. I was more or less retired. I said enough is enough as I had been away from my family all my life. But then Oman FA called me they said ‘we want to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup’ and that’s what we did. Then they said ‘we want to play the Gulf Cup’ and I also wanted to do that. And we won. This event is completely different from the Asian Cup or the World Cup. For our game against the UAE, the atmosphere in the stadium was just great. I love to play games like these.