Interviews

Queiroz: Europe leaving Asia and ROTW behind

Scott McIntyre spoke to Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, who had strong views on what he called the growing gap between Europe and the rest of the world.

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Having held an outstanding Spanish side for long spells in a 1-0 loss in their second group match at the FIFA World Cup, Iran coach Carlos Queiroz praised his side’s wonderful ‘fighting qualities’.

But in pointed comments he also questioned the way that international football is being developed and raised fears for the future of the game, especially in Asia.

Five days after kicking off their campaign with a late win over Morocco, Team Melli were forced to defend for long spells against the 2010 champions, but having seen a somewhat fortunate, deflected, Diego Costa strike seal the Spanish win, Queiroz – as he often does – went on the front foot over the rate of development in Asia.

“Firstly I want to say that this was a lot of fun and that our team competed with dignity and honour and I’m sure that we won a lot of respect. And as I said before the game either we would win or we would learn and I thank the Spanish side for the beautiful game that they played.

“The reality though is that Europe is taking off and Asia and elsewhere are continuing to struggle,” he told FOX Sports Asia.

There is a level of hype and hyperbole in the coverage of football within our region that tends to over-exaggerate any kind of short-term achievements whilst continuing to ignore the longer-term implications – see Vietnam’s ‘achievements’ in a youth tournament earlier this year – and given his stature in the game it’s well worth heeding what a vastly experienced coach such as Queiroz has to say.

Whilst it’s satisfying to bask in the glow of short-term ‘success’ the endgame must – and there are no exceptions – be about sustained success generation on generation and this is something that the Portuguese coach recognises and which is missing in almost all coverage of Asian football.

If it’s good enough for a man with the standing of Queiroz – who has been at the helm of Iran for almost eight years – to raise these issues at no less an event than the World Cup then it’s about time that those within Asia paid attention.

“It’s not just Asia but also Africa and even South America where the gap is growing,” he added.

“In Asia the development process is struggling at both national and youth level and by that I mean absolutely everything.

“It means coach education, youth development, infrastructure, facilities – everything – Europe is taking off and the others are being left behind.”

More than that the globally respected mentor declared that there are only a handful of nations that can genuinely aspire to win the World Cup, whilst urging Asian nations to do all they can to ensure that players leave the continent and head to club careers in Europe.

“The only nations that are able to compete in the World Cup are those with luck and those who are able to play for clubs in Europe, and that’s not just in Asia but also Africa and elsewhere.

“People point to Morocco or Senegal as strong African nations, but what they really are is African players playing in Europe.

“I’ve been coaching for 37 years and I can tell the gap between Europe and the rest – Asia included – is only growing.

“Eight years ago it was bad, four years ago worse and now it’s even worse.”

The veteran mentor also took aim at FIFA for not allowing specific windows depending on the unique needs of each confederation and declared that having such a limited period of time to work with his squad is causing huge issues.

“When you compare having four days to prepare Germany and four days to prepare Iran you don’t need to say anything about the future of the game.

“I congratulate our players and their spirit in this match and we showed we are ready to suffer and compete. This is not the first time that Spain has dominated a match.”

Even as his nation remains alive in the race for a second round spot, once again the Portuguese mentor – who will face his home country in that clash – had some stinging words for the way that global football is hurting the region’s progress.

“When you look at one team having a Champions League match in June and the other with their players in bad conditions in front of maybe 100 spectators then this kind of situation is, in my opinion, nonsense.

“The calendar we have is hurting Asian nations, and whilst we can say that an expanded World Cup is good for Asia if nobody does anything about it then what can we say?

“Europe will continue to take off and Asia and the rest will be left behind for more than 100 years.”

What’s often lost in the analysis of Asian football is any sense of sustained, long-term, perspective and it’s refreshing to hear Queiroz, who has vast experience in this area, continue to raise these issues.

What you’ll read and hear is the positive strides that Asia has been taking in this World Cup but what matters far more than anything is structured, long-term development and a commitment to continued excellence.

Not to diminish or look down on the game, but to excuse the cheer squad the need to rise above to hyperbole.

To say that, yes, in Asia, strides have been made but we shouldn’t settle for ‘heroic’ defeats as all that simple analysis does is further encourage the scattergun theory of ‘development’ when what’s needed is a systemic and consistent approach to giving our vast home the future it deserves.