Doha, Qatar: Heimir Hallgrimsson is more than a likeable Icelandic former footballer who is currently the head coach of Qatar Stars League side Al Arabi. Hallgrimsson qualified as a dentist. Speaking during the star chat interview at the fifth Aspire Academy Global Summit on Football Performance & Science in Doha, the affable coach revealed how he employs lessons from dentistry in his coaching.
“When patients visit the dentist, you get some who are petrified and others who go with the flow and your approach to each of them differs, but you still want to get the job done. It’s the same with players some need an arm around the shoulder others you give a rollicking but it’s important to know the player and their personality for it helps the coach to get the best out of them. I think being a dentist gives me some advantages and helps me in dealing with different personalities in football.’’
The former Iceland national team coach went on to describe the approach and philosophy he and his coaches use at Al Arabi. “In the Qatar Stars League (QSL) you have the big three clubs, Al Sadd, Al Rayyan and Al-Duhail who have the best players and pretty much provide the bulk of the national team, so what are the chances of a club like Al Arabi in this scenario? What we have done is to try and get our own identity by finding areas where we can be better than the big three clubs. For instance, we have worked hard on defending and continuously do so and we are among the clubs with least goals conceded. We also know that 30% of goals scored in QSL are scored in the last 15 minutes, therefore, we prioritise our fitness as one key area for us.“
Al Arabi are currently second in the league and are yet to lose after five games. Hallgrimsson pays homage to his team of staff who he says have the advantage of working with most of the players from way back in their youth age group days. "This set up helps a foreign coach a lot when you have staff who been with players for years and know them well. As a club we decided that we would bring in foreign players who will help the Qatari players become better and again we did this electively. The foreign players at Al Arabi fit the criteria we need for our club. So, our philosophy stems from how we have identified ourselves, resources, personalities and then set the objectives and how we want to achieve them.“
Hallgrimsson believes that in today’s football there is probably too much emphasis on the technical abilities of players over their character and attitude. "What l look for and seek to instil in players are certain values, like discipline, hard work and focused mind. Unfortunately, by focusing on a player’s technical ability foremost, what is lost are vital answers to questions like, what is the player’s background and how does it play a part in their attitude and personality. These are key questions which a coach needs answered before and as he deals with players."
Hallgrimsson went on to say, “I believe a coach shouldn’t go with a fixed style of playing football. I am not a fan of coaches who seek to play the Guardiola tiki taka or Klopp’s high pressing style instead of coming up with a style that best suits the players they have. I think in the end what you want is to find and define your own philosophy which helps you answer the key question in football- How do l win games,” said Heimir Hallgrimsson.