Jordan is renewing the contract of its national coach, Adnan Hawad, in a break with the Middle East’s common practice of firing coaches of teams that fail to perform. The Jordanian decision contrasts starkly with the firing earlier this month of Qatari national coach Bruno Metsu. The contracts of national coaches in the Middle East are on the line after no team from the region made it past the quarterfinals in last month’s Asian Cup in Qatar even though they accounted for half of all squads participating in the tournament. Saudi Arabia fired two coaches during the tournament. Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec of the national team of the UAE is likely to be back on the job market by June when his contract is up for renewal. Against the backdrop of the overall disappointing performance of Middle Eastern teams, Jordan and Qatar performed best. The Asian Cup was the first time Qatar or Jordan made it to a quarterfinal in an international tournament. By maintaining Hawad, who was Asia’s 2004 coach of the year, Jordan appears to demonstrate a rare Middle Eastern embrace of the principle that patience and long-term vision are more likely to produce success than short term political opportunism. The Jordanian decision strokes with broader efforts by the country’s king to proactively meet mounting popular demand for political and economic reform. Jordan has had its share of mass anti-government protests that are sweeping the region and have already toppled two presidents, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine Abedine Ben Ali. Protesters in Jordan, however, have so far stopped from demanding the overthrow of the monarchy. Eight people were injured on Friday in protests in the capital Amman demanding lower commodity prices and greater freedom. The protests in a swath of land stretching from Algeria to Bahrain have prompted authoritarian governments to maintain even tighter control of soccer because it historically offers a rare release valve for pent-up frustration and anger and potentially could serve as a rallying point for protesters. As a result, Middle Eastern countries adopt a short-term results-oriented approach towards soccer that undermines the ability of national teams to develop a successful style of their own and produces a degree of pressure and uncertainty among coaches and players that mitigates towards failure.
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