Jaber al AjmiKuwait City, Jan 3 – Kuwait team manager Boris Bunjak insisted that he did the best possible for Kuwait in the Arabian Gulf Cup held in Kuwait, and no one can do better than what he did, due to the short time available for the preparation. “This was a very difficult mission and I doubt if any manager can do better than me under such a pressure,” the Serbian manager told Oman Daily Observer in an exclusive interview after Kuwait went out from the group stage of the current 23rd edition of the Arabian Gulf Cup.
“I was a strong and brave coach to accept such a big challenge. However, it wasn’t the greatest time for Kuwaiti football after a two and half years of Fifa ban.”
Despite all those circumstances, the Serbian manager argued that his team could qualify for the semifinal but was ere not lucky enough especially in the first two games.
“We found ourselves in such a tough group but we showed a very good football and we weren’t lucky enough to take one point from Saudi Arabia and Oman games at least,” Bunjak said.
“If we were in Group B we might qualify because our group not only had the tactics but they had the time to prepare for the tournament.”
“The Arabian Gulf Cup is a strong tournament which plays in a very short period of time so the fitness is a key factor to succeed, so anyone should take this in consideration before blaming the team.
“I had only four training sessions with the shortlist squad before the start of the Arabian Gulf Cup.
“In the first days of our camp, I started with a big group which was very difficult to manage, and then we travelled to Bahrain to play the friendly game against Bahrain.”
Doubts in selecting final squad
Before the start of the tournament, most of the Kuwaiti media agreed that the Serbian Bunjak was the perfect choice to coach Kuwait.
“I’m grateful for this because I had a long history with Kuwait clubs with many great seasons in Al Jahraa and Al Arabi clubs,” Bunjak said.
But after the 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia, some of the Kuwaiti media started to criticise Bunjak.
“The Kuwaiti media did not support the team because they gave attention to the negative things more than the positive things,” the 63-year old said.
“It is good to talk about the mistakes and drawbacks but we must choose the correct time which was after the end of the tournament, not during it, as the Kuwaiti media did.”
“That criticism affected the whole team and the final outcome.
Bunjak, a former midfielder player, also commented on the rumours of being forced in his final selection of 23 players, who participated in the tournament.
“The final 23 list was totally my decision, many people tried to influence me but I didn’t care,” he said.
“The Kuwait Football Association (KFA) gave me a suggested list which included 50 players but I picked my selection according to very important criteria which are experiences, quality, and reputation because I have no time at that moment.
“I didn’t think about the clubs which players belong to, I selected the best players according to very small differences but very crucial,” Bunjak continued.
Mussaed Nada row
“Once I saw the 50-player suggested list, I asked about three important players who are: Mussaed Nada, Yousif Naser, and Talal Fadhel,” Bunjak said.
“Those three players would book a place in my starting line-up but the KFA told me that Yousif and Talal will not be able to join due to an issue with their clubs, while Nada was getting therapy in Germany after an injury.
“I requested my team manager to contact Nada and ask him to be examined by our doctor, and he expressed his interest to do so but since that time, I did not hear anything about Nada!”
“I don’t have any clue about what happened after this to Nada.”
“If I had those three names on my list they were supposed to be in the main starting eleven players,” he added.
Fahad Al Ansari dropped
The KFA excluded Fahad al Ansari and Khalid al Qahtani from the team against Oman and the UAE after a video that was spread in the social media after the game of Saudi Arabia.
“I am not satisfied with this decision but I have to accept it because it’s from the KFA, although Fahad al Ansari was my first name in the starting line-up of any game,” Bunjak said.
“The two changes happened afterwards affected us against Oman.
“With the lack of fitness, different opponents and the exclusion of Fahad al Ansari and Khalid al Qahtani, I started all of the three games with different line-ups.”
Oman tough team
Bunjak talked also about Oman national team and their coach Dutchman Pim Verbeek.
“Oman played in a very disciplined way and they really amazed me.
“Among all of the eight teams they were the surprise package of this tournament. They don’t give you a chance or a space to score a goal because of their high level of organisation in the defence and the very fast transition from attack to defence. They only need a playmaker who has a good vision on the pitch.
“Verbeek is very expert manager who comes from the European school that helped to shape the Omani talents.”
Bunjak’s advise to KFA
“From today onwards, the KFA needs to start planning for the upcoming competitions, this is a golden time to start identifying the best strategies to achieve long-term targets”
“The European school suits the Kuwait national team because many of the players like Bader al Mutawa, Faisal Zaied and Al Dhofairi have the European qualities and they can adapt to their position easily,”Al Jahra club manger Serbian Boris Bunjak signed off.
Jaber al Ajmi