Former Iceland boss Heimir Hallgrimsson said Qatar “was the place to be” as he was officially unveiled as the coach of club side Al Arabi in Doha yesterday.
It is Hallgrimsson’s first job since leaving the Iceland post and guiding his country to their first World Cup finals earlier this year, and he admitted even he was “surprised” to end up in the Gulf.
He said he had been in talks with Bundesliga and Major League Soccer sides — Stuttgart and Vancouver Whitecaps — before being approached by Al Arabi, but had no regrets about choosing a team from the World Cup 2022 host nation.
“I had some opportunities, some discussions with clubs but nothing that was more interesting than this one,” he said.
The 51-year-old has signed a one-and-half-year contract.
Hallgrimsson added: “This is a big, big challenge, a big club, that had historical success in the past and they would like to have that past again.”
Al Arabi are currently mid-table in the 12-team Qatar Stars League at the halfway stage.
Starved of success in recent years, the last of Al Arabi’s seven Qatari league titles was back in 1997.
Hallgrimsson said he wanted the owners to give him time to improve the side, in a league where coaches are changed regularly and ruthlessly.
“They know that this is not an instant job, this is not buying success for today, this is a long-term project to build up success for the future,” he said.
The Icelander is the club’s eighteenth managerial appointment since 2010.
“A lot of people have warned me that this is a hot seat so hopefully a guy from Iceland can cool it a little.
“All the things from the president, from the club, the conversations, is that they will support me and I feel that they really mean it.
“Sacking coaches two times a year doesn’t get you anywhere.”
His first match in charge will be on December 21, a cup match against current league leaders Al Duhail, also managed by a coach who was at this year’s World Cup, Tunisia’s Nabil Maaloul.
Hallgrimsson resigned as Iceland manager in July after they were knocked out at the first stage of the World Cup in Russia, failing to win a game, ending the Nordic country’s fairytale rise to the global stage.
“The reason I decided to stop with the national team was because I had been seven years doing the same job as a national team coach, and my feeling was that I was at a standstill,” he said.
He added: “For me to improve personally, as a coach, this was the place to be.”
Hallgrimsson began his coaching career in 1993 with an Icelandic women’s team, Hottur.
Famously a dentist as well as a coach, Hallgrimsson said he would be concentrating only on football in Qatar.
“I am so confident that we are going to stay for a few years that I am not going to do any dentistry.”
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