The appointment of Harry Redknapp as Jordanian manager by the FA could only be less embarrassing than when US Soccer Chief Sunil Gulati, confirmed that they would vote for Jordan’s Prince Ali in the FIFA elections only to switch allegiance to new FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the second voting round.
Apart from the fact that he rolls with Prince Ali and has extensive experience, one fails to understand the beneficial reason behind the appointment of the Englishman especially when the Jordanians sat comfortably in second position behind Australia in Group B of the Asian World Cup Qualifiers with two games remaining.
Having suspended Belgian Paul Put in December of 2015 after allegations of match fixing surfaced, the reigns were handed to assistant coach Jordanian Abdulla Abu Zema who, in his own right, managed to secure a crucial victory over the Egyptians in a friendly earlier in the year. Prior to that, Paul Put had solidified a squad that had four wins (including against Australia), a draw and one loss against Kyrgyzstan in the qualifiers. All the Nashama’s required were an anticipated win against Bangladesh and a draw away at Australia at the least, apart from a few favorable score-lines between other nations. However against Australia, many were hoping for a repeat of what took place in Jordan a few months ago.
Then came the news of Harry Redknapp making an entrance into the region to steer Jordan through those two games. These days, though, you don’t have to wait long for the next bewildering new low in Arab football but this appointment by the Jordanian FA fell into that bucket. Under the Englishman, the Jordanians thrashed Bangladesh and were handed one by the Australians. Regardless, in all fairness, it was China’s unexpected win against Qatar that eventually led to the end of their WC campaign. Yet, there is a need to blame someone. It cannot fall onto Redknapp who would never turn down a potential lucrative revenue stream (in this case, the details of the deal are yet to be revealed).
Perhaps, the FA thought that bringing an experienced man would help secure the nation’s safe passage yet, it failed to realize the negative impact it would have. A team that was on the verge of moving onto the next round, having beaten the Australians and starting off the year with a win over a stronger Egyptian side was not expected to fail. Keeping China’s surprising win aside, going into the game, the natural assumption here was that even if they lost in Australia, it would be by a few goals.
Now, there is absolute confidence in the expertise of foreign coaches by officials, especially of those who come with a proven track record. Such expertise further reflects in training, tactical player selections and identifying the appropriate support staff – all of which comes one over-arching element; communication.
Communication plays a key role here. It was clear from the entertaining post-match interview between Redknapp and a local reporter after beating Bangladesh, that this could well be similar with the team translators and eventually the players as information passed through the funnel.
Regardless of Redknapp’s immense set of experiences, what more could be expected from a person who was hired only a few days ago. Duly acknowledged by Redknapp himself.
“The players did their best. We all did our best but what can you do? I’ve been here five or six days, what can you do?
“The players are the players, I can’t suddenly bring in [Cristiano] Ronaldo. It is what it is. They tried their best but they were beaten by a better team.”
And as he leaves or already left the country, the players who played their hearts out are trying to understand what went wrong. The FA needs to play its part here in acknowledging the slip-up in their decision to bring in Redknapp at a crucial moment unsettling the motivation and focus of the players. They lacked concentration – the very psychological factor that kept them afloat.
Situations like these make the issue sound a one-off, but it’s not. Between the arrivals of these foreign tacticians in the Arab world who could potentially lead the nation into new dimensions, it is easy to assign the role of a single destructive force. As the world of football moves on, it would only be satisfying to suggest that things would be different if Abu Zema was still given the opportunity to carry on.
Yes, as we imagine Redknapp miraculously beating Australia, he would have achieved a status only certain such messiah’s would have able to achieve in the region. And surely, that would be nuts.