Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has implored UAE football to improve itself by encouraging players to test themselves overseas.
Zaccheroni revealed at the Dubai International Sports Conference that the Blue Samurai had benefitted from the fact he now has a pool of 28 players earning their living in Europe, including the likes of Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United) and Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow).
By contrast, all of Mahdi Ali’s 23-man Gulf Cup of Nations squad play for clubs in the Pro League.
Hamdan Al Kamali recently returned from a loan spell with French club Lyon where he didn’t make a single first-team appearance while club and international colleague Ismail Matar has never left the Gulf despite winning the Golden Ball at the 2003 Youth World Cup.
Al Wasl defender Lucas Neill recently questioned the ambition of Emirati players as he admitted, that while some ask him about his experience playing in Europe, little if any show a desire to test themselves abroad.
It’s a probem former AC Milan and Lazio boss Zaccheroni believes needs to be addressed if the UAE are to match the lofty ambitions of Footall Association president, Yousuf Al Serkal, who recently said he wants the nation to be among the top three in Asia.
“This area has made good progress but East Asia has made better progress because Japanese and South Korean players are playing now in Europe,” Zaccheroni, whose side beat the Whites 1-0 in Mahdi’s first game in charge, said.
“It allows players to grow and is to the benefit of the national team. I think one player can grow when they are playing with players in a big championship.”
The Italian added: “It’s a choice, always there are pluses and minuses. I think the line followed by Japanese players is positive.
“The domestic championship in Japan doesn’t really offer a lot. Young players in Europe are developing, growing. There are positives and minuses but in the short-term it really is positive.”
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