Recently I was contacted with the interesting story of Goran Miscevic, an experienced Canadian coach that has taken the path of coaching all over the Middle East.
To give a little background on Mr. Miscevic, he is originally from Yugoslavia and before transitioning into coaching he played for teams in Yugoslavia and Germany. As a coach he was trained and worked in Germany for a few years before he and his family moved to Canada and settled in Toronto.
It was here where he became the OSA U17 Coach, the Coach of Metro Lions FC in the former CPSL and has coached such players as former Toronto FC Academy standout and current Canadian U20 forward Stefan Vukovic, while also working summers at Vogelsinger Soccer Academy in California, USA.
It was Swedish Coach Bo Augustson whom recommended Goran to coaching in the Middle East, and specifically Qatar, as Augustson had worked there previously, after making contacts with agents in Qatar he got the call to come over.
The opportunity came as a big surprise because the practice in Qatar and most countries in the Middle East has been to hire a big name, however the best way to build up a name is to work in different countries within the Middle East. So after Qatar, he made the transition to Saudi Arabia, Oman and is currently coaching in United Arab Emirates.
One of the more interesting aspects of Goran’s experiences is his view on the level of soccer in the Middle East compares to North America and specifically Major League Soccer.
When asked this question he stated “The level of Soccer here compared with MLS is very close. MLS is more physical with respect to the fitness and pace aspect of the game being higher. However, here in Middle East, because of money they put in, Soccer it’s more tactical and you can see some of the world’s top players playing in these leagues”
He went on to add “Coaches possess a very strong background, like Kiki Flores (ex Valencia Coach), Walter Zenga (ex Catania and Palermo Coach), Calderon (Argentina), Milan Machala, Antoine Kambouare (ex PSG Coach), Paqita, Bonamigo, Lazaroni (Brazil Nat. Team), Toni (Benfica) and many others. These teams are very well prepared by the aforementioned coaches and due to the money pumped into Middle Eastern Soccer, each team has fantastic foreign players who are well paid here, fantastic stadiums and facilities for training - World class. When you put all together, world class coaches, with world class players and top quality facilities they for sure have quality games.”
However, for all of the quality the game has at the professional level it doesn’t necessarily carry over to youth development. While the state of soccer’s youth development in Canada takes its fair share of criticism, it was interesting to read Mr. Miscevic’s opinion.
When asked about the comparison between youth development in the Middle East compared to Canada/North America he said, “Youth development is far behind in Canada and North America. Countries are very small, except Saudi Arabia, whom have a significantly larger population (approx 25 million) and very rich. Unlike North America, most player’s goal is not to be professional player in Europe because these kids and their families are very rich. In Qatar they pay kids to play Soccer, because if they don’t pay the kids won’t play due to lack of interest.”
One of the main questions I had for Mr. Miscevic were his thoughts on if he could see a potential pipeline for Canadian players/Coaches and whether he could see players from the Middle East playing in MLS following the trend set by South Americans and Africans.
He said “The Middle East doesn’t have big potential for Canadian players and Coaches simply because, like I said before, they have money and want to attract only the big names. If players/coaches use the European leagues as a proving ground and create a name for themselves clubs in the Middle East might take them but to come straight from MLS and/or North America isn’t easy.”
He went on to say, “Players from Middle East are not so interested in MLS and watch more of the European leagues. Even with Al Jazira TV showing MLS games every week players don’t really talk about it. However, while some players dream of playing in Europe, due to the money being so good in the Middle East there isn’t a big desire to leave.”
The last point of discussion I had with Goran was surrounding Qatar winning the bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. He said, “Everybody here was surprised about FIFA’s decision to give Qatar the 2022 World Cup. I know some people who work for the Qatar FA and even they did not believe that FIFA will give them the hosting rights. Anyway, they will do fantastic and there is no doubt about organization, stadiums, hotels, transportation and everything else associated with this massive event. It will be unforgettable, Qatar has only 200 000 people and they are 2nd (1.Russia) in producing Natural Gas in the world. Lot of money here.”
In what was a rather unexpected contact I’d like to thank Goran Miscevic for taking the time to share his views on life as a Canadian coach in the Middle East, for all the Canadian coaches trying to make a name for themselves this is one person whom is very proud to be representing the city of Toronto and county of Canada abroad and I wish him continued success.