February 05, 2019

Al Kass: Where Elite Coaches Flourish

The Al Kass International Cup has become notable worldwide for the young players it has hosted who have gone on to star at the top level. Qatar’s victorious Asian Cup team is the most recent and glorious example, but many other veterans of the tournament are now sprinkled across the world’s top leagues.

And, it’s not only players who have graduated from Al Kass to grace the global game – its coaches too. In 2017, Marco Rose managed Red Bull Salzburg to their second consecutive Al Kass semi-final and, three months later, led his young protégés to victory in the UEFA Youth League – the U19s equivalent of the Champions League.

Red Bull Salzburg’s management took a keen interest in Rose’s achievements, and put him in charge of the senior team later the same year. The 42-year-old German has continued to demonstrate the world-class coaching prowess that he previously displayed at Al Kass, leading Salzburg to the Austrian Championship and the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League in his first season in charge.

In this exclusive interview, Rose speaks about his memories of the Al Kass International Cup, his coaching philosophy, and his views on the development of football in Qatar.

Marco, you participated in the “Al Kass International Cup” in Doha with the U-17 team of Red Bull Salzburg in 2016 and 2017. What memories have you kept of this tournament?

It was valuable experience for all of us. I was particularly impressed by the perfect organisation, the incredible infrastructure and the small adventures on our days off, like the desert safari.

How important are such tournaments for the development of young players?

Competing at this high international level is an important factor in the development for all young players.

Just a few months after your participation in the 2017 Al Kass Cup, you gained international attention coaching Red Bull’s U-19s to victory in the UEFA Youth League. On the way to the title, Salzburg defeated teams like Benfica, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona. What was the secret behind this huge success?

To win such a title, many things have to come together. Basically, our structure in developing young players, our game idea and our concept in the academy laid important foundations for this achievement. Then, we also had a great team with high individual quality and the willingness to give everything. Every victory has made the guys stronger, and we have never lost our fun and coolness.

Events like the “Al Kass International Cup” are a good stage for many talents. The challenge, of course, is the step from junior to professional player. Some former players of the tournament, such as Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman and Achraf Hakimi have become successful players in great teams. In your opinion, what are the most important qualities a young player has to have in order to make it to the top?

If a young player participates in this tournament, he has already taken small steps in his career. In order to establish yourself
in professional football, the most important factor is being able to deal with obstacles and to assert yourself at the absolute top level.

The step from youth to professional business is something you have also achieved as
a coach. After winning the UEFA Youth League you were promoted to coach of the professional team of Red Bull Salzburg in the 2017/18 season. What was the biggest change for you in this transition?

The transition was not that big. Essential aspects are that in professional football you will be, above all, measured on results, and players are picked up at a different level in certain areas than youth players. For me as a coach, my job at FC Red Bull Salzburg is still focused on developing the players and our own game idea.

In 2022, Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup, where the country’s national team is going to face big footballing nations. How do you assess the development of football in Qatar?

As we are having this conversation*, Qatar has just made it the final of the Asian Cup and has shown that development is in
full swing. The decisive factor will be to constantly confirm these results and continue on this positive path.

*) This interview was conducted on January 29, 2019, three days before Qatar recorded a historic victory in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Pictures: ©RB/GEPA