Friday, June 24, 2011


On 28 April, the players of UAE club Al Nasr surprised their coach Walter Zenga by presenting him with a cake on his 51st birthday. Perhaps an unwelcome reminder that he was now into his sixth decade, the touching gesture was nonetheless a fitting tribute to the Italian’s belief that such occasions are as important to coaching as picking players and honing their technique. Building good relationships with the media, the club’s administration and support staff, not to mention fostering team spirit and friendships between players, are among Zenga’s top priorities.

Known as Spiderman for the incredible shot-stopping reflexes that allowed to him to keep a clean sheet for a record 518 consecutive minutes of FIFA World Cup™ football, Zenga finally hung up his goalkeeping gloves at the age of 39 to pursue a career as coach. His new career has taken him to six countries in three continents, with the latest stop at Dubai’s Al Nasr Sporting Club.

Here, Zenga talks to about the achievements of a life in football and the challenges to come in Dubai and further afield. Walter, how are you enjoying life in the Gulf?
Walter Zenga:
Of course it’s different to anywhere I’ve lived before. Every place has its own character and atmosphere. Life in Saudi Arabia and the UAE is similar to Turkey, where I lived for a while. Football itself tends to stay the same no matter where you are. I try to bring European professionalism to the players, because that is what they are lacking. Everyone has their own unique skills and talents; my job as coach is to bring out the best in the players I deal with and help them put in good performances on the pitch.



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