The Minister for Tourism and Major Events from the State Government of Victoria in Australia says she is looking forward to welcoming the UAE football team to next year’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.
Victorian Minister Louise Asher met with His Excellency Yousuf Al Serkal, President of the UAE Football Association, at a ‘Put Victoria on Your Table’ dinner in Dubai this week where they discussed the UAE’s qualification in the showpiece event in the presence of prominent Emirati businessman Issa bin Abdullah Al Ghurair.
Australia will host the AFC’s Asian Cup from 9 to 31 January 2015, with Melbourne, the capital of the State of Victoria, hosting the opening ceremony and a number of games.
The event will be an opportunity to showcase Victoria as a vibrant economic, sports and multicultural hub to the rest of the world.
The UAE secured their place at the tournament with ease, topping Group E with a perfect record from five games. The Whites – currently ranked fifth in Asia after a stunning year – are rightly regarded as one of the favourites for glory in 2015.
Mahdi Ali's men take on Uzbekistan on Wednesday in the final group game looking to win their 16th game in a row.
“I’ve been delighted to learn that the UAE football team has qualified for the Asian Cup in 2015,” said Minister Asher, who was leading Victoria’s ‘Super Trade Mission’ to the Middle East.
"Melbourne is excited to be hosting the opening ceremony and we look forward to welcoming the UAE to our country.”
The UAE will join a host of other leading Asian football nations, including defending champion Japan.
UAE Football Association President Yousuf Al Serkal said: “We are proud of what the UAE national team has achieved during the Asian qualifiers which was the result of hard work and dedication.
"We are sure that the team’s performance at the tournament will delight football lovers and that Australia will succeed in organising this major event.”
Victoria’s close ties with the UAE’s sporting industry have continued to grow on many levels, in particular through key partnerships with the UAE’s Emirates Airline and the national carrier Etihad Airways.
Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has cancelled his club's warm weather training trip to the UAE after his side's 4-0 thrashing at home to Hull on Saturday which left the Welsh club three points adrift from safety.
Solskjaer had planned to bring his struggling players to Abu Dhabi for five days following the Hull game but has instead opted for an intensive training programme in Wales ahead of their match at White Hart Lane against Tottenham on Sunday.
It has been reported that Cardiff players were called into a meeting on Saturday night to be told that their break would be cancelled following their woeful display but the former Molde boss denied that the cancellation was a punishment.
“We want to keep everyone together as a group. We need to regroup and to train,” the Norwegian was quoted as saying. “The players’ confidence has been knocked a lot by this result so that is my main priority now.
"We are going to work hard this week, stick together and maybe because of the extra day we now have we will have one or two extra sessions as well.”
Solskjaer's former club Manchester United were just one Premier League outfit to make the most of the UAE's facilities and warmer climate this month with Stoke and West Ham also enjoying a break in the region.
Both West Ham and United secured wins following their warm weather training while Stoke were unlulcky to come away from the Etihad without a point but Solskjaer is obviously hoping that some hard work and home comforts can arrest the Bluebirds' poor run of form.
Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence in Dubai is the place to be on Friday February 28 whether you’re a football fan or not.
Not only will there be a five-a-side tournament which is open for all ages, but you will be able to witness free of charge, some of England’s and Scotland’s ex-internationals going head-to-head in an exhibition legends match for the third year in a row.
Among the legends will be former Tottenham and Manchester United striker Teddy Sheringham, ex-Sunderland manager Peter Reid and goalkeeper Andy Goram, who made 43 appearances for Scotland.
Before the legends match at 15:00, the five-a-side tournament will take place with registration still open.
Commencing at 10:00, 16 teams will be competing for the chance to be crowned champions, witheach enjoying a ‘team brunch’ at Girders Bar at Ocean View Hotel in Dubai as well as receiving the trophy and medals.
The tournament will consist of a league and knockout format played on an artificial surface pitch, with the final to be played at half-time in the legends match.
There are also prizes from sports manufacturer Umbro for finalists, the top goal scorer and player of the tournament.
If you fancy the challenge then form a team of no more than eight players, and contact Chris Brown, tournament organiser on 055 2962963 or email [email protected] before the closing date on Monday, February 24.
Entry fee per team is Dh800 (for a minimum of four matches), and payment must be made by cash, cheque, credit card or bank transfer before February 25 otherwise the team’s entry will not be permitted.
The rules are the same for all five-a-side matches with the only difference being overhead balls will be allowed.
“With the large British community here in the UAE, we thought it would be best to organise another edition of the five-a-side tournament following its success for the past two years,” said Brown.
“Five-a-side tournaments are exciting to play in and I’m sure this will be another successful year.”
The England-Scotland legends game is for everyone to attend and is sure to be a close game. It is a rivalry steeped in history and there have been a number of memorable and colourful meetings between the two sides (111 for those counting), since that very first goalless draw in the winter of 1872.
Derek Whyte, Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence business development officer and sporting ambassador,said: “We’re delighted to have top ex-players play at our ground and provide the local community a chance to compete as well.
“We know that when England and Scotland clash in football it’s always going to be a competitive game with committed support both on the pitch and from both sets of supporters.”
Families and friends can make a day out of it by cheering on their favourite team and the opportunity to watch the players in action. It’s a day you wouldn’t want to miss.
What: Five-a-side football tournament and England-Scotland legends match
Where: Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, Dubai
When: Tournament starts 10.00, while the legends match is at 15.00
Contact: Chris Brown on 055 2962963 or email [email protected]
England squad: Dave Beasant, Des Walker, Seth Johnson, Paul Walsh, Lee Hendrie, Trevor Sinclair, Lee Sharpe, Dale Gordon, Gavin McCann, Teddy Sheringham, Peter Reid, Chris Brown and Lee Bowyer.
Scotland squad: Andy Goram, John Collins, Derek Whyte, Richard Gough, Brian O’Neil, Charlie Miller, John Wark, Scott Booth, Eoin Jess, Andy McLaren, Robbie Winters, John Houston, Corin Dougall, Colin Manson, Paul Griffin, John O’Neill, and Gary McSwegan.