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Ukraine

Jaja Bringing Metalist Glory Home and Abroad

 

 

Artem Chobanian

 

There’s always a player – or sometimes players – who helps an ordinary team from an unknown city or town become recognised in Europe or other parts of the world. Last year Metalist Kharkiv participated for the first time in their modern history in the UEFA Cup and were quite successful, almost beating English side Everton.

This season Metalist are playing in the UEFA Cup again and managed to reach the group stage, proving their progress last year was not an accident. Last year there was a player who was praised all over Ukraine and he liked it in Ukraine so much that he even changed his citizenship to get a chance to play for the Ukrainian national team. That player was Marco Devich.

However, during the whole year Devich was in the shadow of a newcomer whose very appearance in the starting eleven changed Metalist’s style of play and tactics. That player is known as Jackson Coelho, or simply Jaja.

When Miron Markevich, the Metalist Kharkiv coach, decided to let him play for the senior team, he changed the playing scheme dramatically to find a proper place for Jaja. This season Metalist’s players accepted Markevich new plan and it has proved to be very effective.

Metalist move slowly with many passes to the centre of the pitch where Jaja gets the ball and speeds up the attack with the forwards: Devich, Valentin Slusar, Ruslan Fomin, Andriy Koval and others. Introducing Jaja as a new player for the Ukrainian Premier League, I wrote: “When he runs, it seems his legs are moving apart from his body, performing something resembling an Irish jig. He is fast and can go through several players and it seems as if he penetrates them like a ghost”. The games against the best Ukrainian clubs – Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv – showed how nicely Jaja adapted to the team and understood what the coach wants from him.

Markevich said in one of the numerous interviews, “Coelho is still like a child. He comes up to me and asks if he did everything right and looks at me like I am going to punish him… Sometimes he spoils the moment, trying to finish the attack all by himself, but all in all I am satisfied with the quality of performance he shows. If he continues to play like this, he will become a star, at least in Ukrainian football…”

Now Jaja is the second top scorer in the Ukrainian Premier League, but that’s not the most important point. Metalist have progressed in the UEFA Cup to the group stage, though lots of pundits thought they wouldn’t. The Kharkiv team had to face Turkish giants Besiktas, and though Metalist lost the first game 1:0, the Turks were simply lucky to win.

Everybody in Ukraine was sure Metalist would win the second leg of that qualifying match. Jaja became the hero of that game. He scored a fantastic goal from nearly the centre of the pitch right in the 15th minute of the match. He was the assistant of the second goal when his pass created a brilliant opportunity for Devich to score. And then he followed this up with a strike in the 70th minute as the Turks surrendered.

Yes, Jaja was great in that match, as were the entire Metalist team. After that match the Brazilian didn’t feel like a star, his refused to come to the press-conference, though Metalist have another Brazilian player – Edmar – who acts as an interpreter. Markevich said to the reporters that Coelho needs time to realise his strengths and weaknesses to become a real professional.

The latest games in the Premier League showed Jaja is the same player as he was against Besiktas. Metalist defeated Arsenal Kyiv twice – in the league and in the Ukrainian Cup – then Chernomorets Odesa, and Kryvbas Krivyi Rig. Jaja has been a key player in all of these matches.

The only disappointment for the fans was the match against Hertha Berlin when Metalist had controlled the game. Hertha had not a single moment to score, but the passive tactics that Markevich chose for the game didn’t force the players to move towards the goal of the German club. Jaja had to play safe, was slow and had to tackle a lot because there was no speed in the attacks of Metalist.

After the match Markevich took all the responsibility on himself, “I didn’t want my team to lose the first game, so asked the guys to play safe and cautious just to be sure we controlled the match. At half-time I asked them to use the flanks more often, because in the first half all the action was in the centre and it was not football – it was more of a rugby game… Unfortunately, the players didn’t start to play faster, though did use the flanks as I had asked them…”

Well, the final score 0:0 against a strong club from Germany can be considered as a positive result. Jaja is now a player-transformer, that can be bent and twisted the way you like. Markevich realises that. I guess Jaja does as well and he likes being versatile. The following UEFA Cup matches will show his real strength and the Metalist faithful hope Jackson Coelho will grow into a European star and will do a lot of good for Metalist before he is, inevitably, purchased by some famous and wealthy club.

Remember the name Jaja, and watch out for it!


Published: Thursday, 13th Nov 2008