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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Big responsibility on our shoulders, says Sanchez

Qatar coach underlines the importance of planning and preparations in achieving success.
Qatar Football Coach Felix Sanchez Speaks At The Aspire Global Summit On Football Performance And Science
Qatar football coach Felix Sanchez speaks at the Aspire Global Summit on Football Performance and Science. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Planning and process are two terms close to Felix Sanchez’s heart. Not surprising, going by the way he has shaped the fortunes of the Qatar national team.

The Spanish national has been associated with football in Qatar for close to one and a half decades, and having guided the national team to its most famous triumph – the Asian Cup – his faith in long-term planning is unshakable.

“It has been a long-term process and lot of people are involved in it,” said Sanchez on the Asian Cup victory. Speaking at the Aspire Academy’s Global Summit on Football Performance and Science, Felix said the win had placed extra responsibility on himself and the team.

“It has had a big impact on the game here. The expectations are higher and we’ve a big responsibility on our shoulders to work harder, to prepare the team for the most important tournament that’s coming up, the Qatar 2022 World Cup,” said Sanchez.

The coach said on the way to Qatar 2022, it was important to give specific targets for the players to aim at.

“It’s most important that we set targets to keep the players motivated, to guide them in the right way towards 2022. Tournaments like the Asian Cup qualifiers and the Copa America are good targets to keep the players motivated,” he said.

The 43-year-old said the long-term relationship he has enjoyed with the players has been of great help in his job.

“When I came to Qatar, the Aspire Academy was just starting. It was an ambitious project and it was a great honour to be part of this type of process,” he said.

Sanchez has groomed many of the stars of today at Aspire before guiding the Qatar Under-19 team to victory at the Asian Championships in 2014 and then taking over the senior team’s reins a little over two years ago. Asked whether the players saw him as a father figure, he smiled.

“I don’t know whether they see me as a father or a brother,” said Sanchez. “But in the end, the relationship is very close because I’ve been with them for a long time. But at the end of the day, they’re football players and we’re coaches and the close relationship helps in building confidence in the relationship,” he said.

“This’s a small country with a small pool of players, but ultimately the ones who make it are those who’ve a real passion for the game. It’s the same around the world. Sometimes you see some players with genuine talent, but they lose out due to various reasons – their priorities could be different, they would be more interested in social life, etc.

Felix Sanchez, Qatar football coach.

Sanchez said as a coach it was very important to understand the culture and mentality of the region in which you are working.

“If you’re working outside of your country, you’ve to understand the culture and mentality of the region. In my case, I felt very comfortable from the first day, despite the differences in language and culture. It made things easy for me,” he said.

Many talented players have went past his eyes and Sanchez explained the qualities that made a player a champion.

“This’s a small country with a small pool of players, but ultimately the ones who make it are those who’ve a real passion for the game. It’s the same around the world. Sometimes you see some players with genuine talent, but they lose out due to various reasons – their priorities could be different, they would be more interested in social life, etc,” he said, and pointed to the example of Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim as a true champion.

“See how he won the gold the other day. He showed it’s possible for us to reach the highest level and here in Qatar we’ve lot of tools helping the players reach the highest level,” he added.

Again underlining the importance of long-term vision, he said Qatar were reaping the rewards for investing time and effort in developing football.

“We’ve been making steady improvements in the last 15 years and now we’re trying to compete at higher levels, like at the Copa America. We’re still behind but we’re making efforts to bridge the gap and learning to compete against the bigger teams,” he said, stressing that the next couple of years were vital in preparing the players to be in the right shape for Qatar 2022.