The Qatar Football Election chief was selected on Saturday as leader of the newly-inaugurated body, which aims to revolutionise the administration of the sport in the Middle East. A final name was also chosen for it in Doha, changing from Arabian Gulf Football Federation to reflect the importance of the Middle East’s premier international tournament.
He will be supported by UAE Football Association supremo Marwan bin Ghalita, who was voted in unopposed as vice-president by the eight member nations. Al Thani chose to thank both his new No2 and the man he beat last month in the UAE FA elections, Yousuf Al Serkal, during his victory address.
He said: “I know the GCF has shown great confidence in me and I assure I will do my best to take the game forward in this region.
“Everyone knows the importance of the Gulf Cup, which has been continuing for more than 40 years. We must now push it forward.
“I also want to thank Yousuf Al Serkal for his stint as president of the UAE Football Association and offer my congratulations to the new president, Marwan bin Ghalita. I wish him success in his work.”
Al Ain boss Zlatko Dalic chose to praise the character of his ailing side despite a last-gasp implosion which threatened their progression to the President’s Cup final.
The dethroned Arabian Gulf League champions were 2-0 ahead as last night’s scrappy semi-final against Bani Yas headed towards the final whistle. A pair of goals from forward Ishak Belfodil and centre midfielder Amer Abdulrahman then produced a stunning end to the 90 minutes, with South Korea international Lee Myung-joo saving the 2014 winners’ blushes with a composed finish during extra time.
“We were very aggressive and very compact for 90 minutes,” said 49-year-old Dalic, who will battle Al Jazira at Zayed Sports City next Sunday for the trophy. “But in two minutes we gave two goals away when everybody said it was over – but it is not until the last minute.
“My team showed a lot of character. All season, it has been a tough time for us.
“To finish the game was a tough job for us, but Inshallah it will be okay and we deserved to win.”
This shock collapse followed a disappointing 1-1 draw with Zob Ahan during their round-of-16 opener in the AFC Champions League, with the tricky decider coming in Iran on Wednesday.
Opposite number Dr Abdullah Miser refused to wallow in misery about a match which, fleetingly, promised so much.
He said: “Don’t tell me hard luck, because this is football. My players played their heart out and were very good all throughout the match.”
The 54-year-old has revived a club going nowhere under predecessor Luis Garcia since his arrival from the UAE Under-23s in March. This was just a third loss in seven matches, and he hoped to be given a longer window to prove his worth next term.
He said: “I didn’t get lot of time with this club, but if we had more time I can get good results.”
From the moment Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010, critics have called for the Middle Eastern, gas-rich state to be stripped of its right to host football’s showpiece event
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