Thursday, July 14, 2011

AP Interview: Qatar coach eyes World Cup history

Milovan Rajevac wants to be first coach to lead Qatar to the World Cup.
The Serbian has a difficult mission in trying to give the wealthy 2022 World Cup host credibility on the field to match its status in soccer politics.
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Hired in February, Rajevac's task begins next week when the 94th-ranked Qataris start their qualification road to Brazil 2014 with an preliminary-round tie against Vietnam.
Rajevac will be richly rewarded for success - although his 3 1/2-year contract could mean little if Qatar is eliminated in the two-leg series before the main draw is even announced July 30.
However, he told The Associated Press he is motivated by making history, not money.
''That is the most important thing, the greatest satisfaction. This is something that you cannot buy,'' Rajevac said Tuesday through a translator after his team's final match of a brief European training camp.
Last year, Rajevac's Ghana team eliminated the United States in the second round and nearly became the first African team to reach a World Cup semifinal.
That performance enhanced Rajevac's reputation just five years after he was an assistant at Doha club Al Sadd when the Qatari league was an outpost sprinkled with aging stars.
Rajevac said he was ''thrilled'' to come back to Qatar because of its special place in soccer's new world order.
''That is why we're trying to build a team for the future. You try to do everything according to a plan.''
That plan includes Qatar reaching a World Cup on merit, in its 10th attempt since first entering for the 1978 event. It qualifies automatically for the 2022 tournament as host.
atar has two chances left, but the relaxed coach said he's not under stress.
''There's no additional pressure,'' Rajevac said. ''Football is like that, everything is pressure. You need to be very calm to do your work properly. We try to channel that pressure into a positive performance.''
In Europe this month, Qatar lost 3-0 to Swiss top-division side Lausanne, and 4-2 against Bayern Munich in Italy, before returning toSwitzerland to draw 2-2 with Neuchatel Xamax.
Rajevac's squad begins its 2014 World Cup quest on July 23, a day after Mohamed bin Hammam, the longtime international face of Qatari soccer, is to appear before FIFA's ethics committee on election bribery charges.
Rajevac dismissed Qatar's links to corruption allegations, and suggestions it ''bought'' the World Cup.
''I have heard something, but really I'm not thinking about that,'' he said. ''I don't have enough information and I'm not so interested in that part, because I'm thinking about my team.''
Rajevac also is untroubled by Qatar's searing heat, having worked there before, as well as in Ghana and Saudi Arabia.
''We already have one stadium that's air conditioned and the Aspire academy is a fantastic facility for training,'' Rajevac said. ''So heat doesn't disturb us at all.
''Qatar is really investing a lot, this is the target - to build an excellent team for Qatar so it can represent the country at the highest level.
''I came here for a long time to build a team and qualify for the World Cup,'' he said.
And how many bonus dollars are written into his contract for accomplishing that mission?
Rajevac smiles broadly.
''There is no money that can give you that satisfaction when you qualify this country for the first time in their history.''


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