The Brady Hunch: Michael backing football to be a success in Dubai
NO setbacks just bounce backs...Michael Brady refuses to let the obstacles of succeeding as a coach in Dubai deflect him from his goals.
Sport Careers Agency client Michael, a teacher in his day job, has lived on the Persian Gulf for four years now after making the switch from a previous adventure in Qatar.
The Scottish UEFA A Licence holder has seen it all as the Beautiful Game goes through a fretful journey to take a proper foothold in the cash-rich desert paradise.
Michael's story so far is one of shattered dreams, broken promises, gifted players surviving on a pittance and even deep-held suspicions of matches being thrown.
Brady's desire to help players improve drives him on and he firmly believes Dubai can become a sought-after destination for coaches with the right people in charge of both the game and the fledgling clubs there.
He stressed: "My dream here is to try and get into the First Division or the Pro League.
"The route for me for now is to get a post with a Second Division club that has stability and get them promoted."
That roadway, though, has so far been littered with potholes that coaches working in established football countries could not envisage.
Michael's football experience in Dubai began with him coaching the girls' regional squads and national team players at U15 and U16 level.
The respected Scottish coach was then approached to get involved in the UAE Second Division where most of the teams are semi-professional.
And he revealed: "We got a team together within two weeks at Dubai United FC and we had five or six players who were of the standard that they could play League One or League Two in Scotland.
"There are some young African players here who are just crying out for an opportunity to play at a higher level.
"They have so much natural talent, you can tell they have not been properly coached and that's what we tried to bring to them.
"I had no money to work with that first season, we were FEEDING these young players because they weren't working.
"They had come to Dubai expecting this to be their ticket out but they would have accommodation paid for and after that it was just their taxis and win bonuses.
"It was so tough on them and I remember one player telling me one day that he'd only had a cup of water with sugar in it.
"We bought food for them to make sure they were looked after and one of the local players brought a car full of groceries for them.
"I was giving players my old mobile phone, a pair of boots, anything to help. It was an eye-opener but they just wanted to play.
"They are from Ghana or Cameroon and they have big dreams and gradually we improved the club and finished the season in third place."
It was in the final match of the season, though, that Brady smelled the sickening stench of corruption in the game.
Victory against Al Falah would have taken Dubai United up into the more regulated world of the First Division from their semi-pro roots.
Even in our Zoom call staged between Nova Scotia in Canada and Dubai you could see the hurt etched on the coach's face.
He explained: "We lost that final game of the season 3-1 - missing a penalty in the process - and we were edged out of promotion but the performance of some of our players bewildered me.
"Six of them were horrendous in the match and I just couldn't understand it and then in the months afterwards we were told they had been PAID to play badly and lose.
"I was infuriated but they knew if we got promoted we would only be allowed four foreigners in the squad.
"I fear they wanted the club to stay down because those rules didn't apply in our league.
"They've denied it since but we spoke to others involved who appear to confirm our worst suspicions.
"We then had issues with the owner not paying us and I left the club which is a shame because they had so much potential.
"We had set the club up from scratch and all that hard work was gone to waste."
That episode would have been the end for many as a coach, especially one who has a wife and four-year-old twin sons to look after in his present teaching career.
Giving up on football, though, is not in the DNA of a Scot who started out as a community coach at Dundee FC in his homeland almost two decades ago.
In Dubai, due to the heat, the season runs from September to March and when the new campaign rolled around again Brady was recharged and ready.
This time the setting was Laval United, a club born out of the vision of an investing group that included former Manchester United and Northern Ireland midfielder David McCreery.
Initial signs at Laval were promising with assistant-coach Michael given the chance to work alongside former Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt no2 Wolfgang Rolff.
Michael stressed: "We had a player called Rees Greenwood who is out here and played for England Under-20s and Sunderland.
"There was quality in that set-up and they brought in Wolfgang Rolff who had been an assistant manager at the top level in the Bundesliga.
"He had 37 caps for West Germany and played in the Mexico 86 World Cup team, some pedigree!
"That was exciting for me and everything seemed great from the outside. Then the president tried to tell us how to run coaching sessions.
"I have principles and I couldn't have that. We had words and in the end I left which is a tough one but you need to be able to coach properly without interference.
"I was assistant there and working with a vastly experienced Pro Licence coach and it was a terrific opportunity.
"It had the chance to be done so well but history repeated itself behind the scenes. It was all broken promises and Wolfgang is gone now too."
For now Michael is awaiting the next project. It's 11 years now since he first left Scotland for Qatar after a year teaching in the remote Scottish island town of Stornoway which has a population of just 5,000 people.
The travel bug that first bit him when he travelled the world at 21 stayed with him and alongside wife Holly and the boys his young family now have an enviable lifestyle in the sun.
Whether it has been in Qatar or Dubai, though, coaching has always been a major part of his life.
He smiled: "In Qatar I coached a team at amateur level and also took charge of the Scotland team against England in the ex-pats match!
"That was a cool experience and towards the end of my time there I was coaching in the semi-pro league there.
"Qatar was another eye-opening experience. We trained on the field next to Al Saad and there was Xavi running his sessions!
"I met the likes of Robbie Fowler, George Weah and gave Roy Hodgson a piece of my boys' first birthday cake!"
Now, though, Dubai is home and Michael has no feelings of homesickness or plans to return to Scotland.
In 2021 he just prays that he can find the right club with the right environment so he can take the next steps in his development as a coach.
Michael reflected: "You know, it only costs around 150,000 (GBP) to put a club in the Second Division here and I often wonder why more ex-players with the money they have don't see that as a viable project.
"The potential is huge and there are players here who could definitely play at a better level.
"Ezekiel Oreh is a Nigerian striker I have worked with who plays for Al-Hilal in the Second Division now and I would love to see him progress the way he deserves to.
"As for advice for coaches who want to come here? There are private academies here where you can work which would be a good pathway.
"Me? I have had a taste of the pro game and I just want to see now if I can take that next step.
"I am lucky because I have the safety net of being a teacher. My coaching right now is part-time but my dream remains working full-time in football and I don't want to give up on that."
MICHAEL BRADY ON THE SERVICE HE RECEIVED FROM SPORT CAREERS AGENCY:
"My CV is so professional and well laid-out and I would recommend it to everyone.
"I think they are brilliant and I love to follow the interviews on the website, the job posts on Twitter and follow where everyone is coaching around the globe.
"My CV was terrible before but they changed all that and professionalised it.
"I see other companies out there offering stuff and they just don't compare as far as I am concerned.
"I feel Sport Careers Agency and Piero Carrino genuinely care about the steps of your career. Just look at initiatives like this interview series to help coaches tell their stories and help each other. Sport Careers Agency is next level in my eyes."
By Iain King