JUST after the maghrib (evening) prayer, Al Sadd’s new coach Housseine Ammouta led his team to the training session. He has no time to lose. After taking up the reins from Uruguayan Jorge Fossati, the 42-year-old has been assigned the massive task of reviving the fortune of the Asian champions, who have not won a major trophy at the domestic level in the last four seasons.
The forthright Moroccan is aware that he is going to be in a pressure-cooker situation, where the sky-high expectations will make his job all the more challenging.
But the young coach, who had played at Sadd from 1998 to 2001 and was their technical director last year, exuded confidence when he said he wanted to put everything in the right perspective before fielding the side in the season-opening Sheikh Jassim Cup, which begins on July 25.
Before leaving with the team for the pre-season camp in Cabron, Austria, last week, Ammouta spoke exclusively to Doha Stadium Plus, mainly about his goals and the club’s future.
Tell us something about yourself…
As a player, I had stints in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. In 1995, I played with FUS Rabat. Between ’97 and ’03, I played in the Gulf. I was with Al Riyadh club in Saudi Arabia, and then Sadd before joining Sharjah SC.
I graduated from the National Institute Moulay Rachid of Rabat in ’94, where I continued my studies in football coaching. To strengthen my knowledge in coaching, I did another graduation in Switzerland also.
In ’03, I joined Zemmouis as player and coach, but a year later I went to Ittihad Khemisset, whom I coached till 2006-07. Later, I had success with Fath Union Sport de Rabat between ’08 and ’11. We won the CAF Confederations Cup in ’10 and were the runners-up in ’11. Fath also became runners-up in the CAF Super Cup in ’11. Then, under my coaching, Fath won the Coupe de Trone (Moroccan Cup) in ’10, bettering their runners-up finish in ’09.
What’re your goals for the new season?
I had spent the last season here as the club’s technical director. I think that experience will help me understand the team better. I’m an ambitious coach and my target is to win back the QSL title. Also, I’ll try to create a personal target for each player. I want to interact with them because that’s the key to success. We want to win and be the front-runners. That’s our motto.
How would you assess the present team?
Right now, I can’t say much about the team because I don’t have the full strength as some of the national players are yet to join. Also, some players from the Olympic team will join us. I think I’ll be having 70 per cent of the players during our camp in Austria, where Raul Gonzalez and South Korean defender Lee Jung-Soo are expected to join.
Will Raul’s presence be a big boost?
Yes. I’m sure Raul’s presence will help even me (smiles). He’s a legendary player. Even at the age of 34, he can be a great asset for any team. Indeed, I’m lucky to be his coach. His experience will be a big boost, particularly for the younger players who can look up to him as a role model in terms of commitment and discipline, both as a player and person. On the field, Raul can be a good motivator.
What was Sadd lacking in last season?
We made a lot of mistakes even though we reached the final of the Heir Apparent’s Cup and Emir’s Cup. There were shortcomings, but there’s no point in talking about the past failures. We want to build a strong team for the future. I’m trying to work on our mistakes and prepare my boys for the new season.
Can Sadd fans expect something new in the Sheikh Jassim Cup?
For the Sheikh Jassim Cup, we may not have a full team. We want to take it as a preparatory tournament and I don’t want to risk any injury to my players before the new season. We’ll use the event as a platform to understand the team in our preparation for the Qatar Stars League. But this time, you’ll see a fiercely-competitive team.
It’s a big responsibility for you to win titles at Sadd. Are you under pressure?
Let me tell you that I’m an experienced coach and have done well in Morocco in the past. So, I know how to work with the players and achieve the target. I know how to handle a big team like Al Sadd. I’m proud and grateful that I’ve served the club both as a player and as technical director. Now, I’ve been entrusted with a bigger responsibility as their first-team coach. Sadd have a big reputation not just in Qatar, but in Asia as well. I feel it’s a great honour for me.
Do you follow the philosophy of any coach?
I’m my own role model. I don’t follow anyone. I’ve my own work ethics and guidelines which, I’m sure, will be liked by Sadd players and fans.
How do you think will the Fossati experience help?
Fossati is like my elder brother. I’ve picked up some good things from him. But again, I must say, that each coach has his own philosophy. I’ll have mine. I’ll stress on maintaining discipline and a friendly atmosphere in the team. We all hope to contribute to Sadd’s success in the new season.