UAE Football Association president Marwan bin Ghalita has confirmed his nation are set to compete this month in the hastily rearranged and politically sensitive 23rd running of the Gulf Cup after regional pariahs Qatar gave up their hosting rights to Kuwait.
The regional tournament had been engulfed by June’s outbreak of the Qatar crisis, in which the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were among the countries to break off diplomatic ties because of alleged links to terrorism. This stance was cemented last month when the trio all officially pulled out in protest at Doha’s staging.
But FIFA’s decision last week to rescind their ban on Kuwait opened up an opportunity for redress, the Qataris forfeiting to Kuwait on Wednesday. This stance allowed Bin Ghalita late on Friday night to confirm the revelation earlier in the day from the world governing body’s president, Gianni Infantino, that the Whites have signed up to compete in an event which will run from December 22-January 8.
“The UAE will participate in the upcoming Gulf Cup in Kuwait,” Bin Ghalita told Abu Dhabi Sport. ” I talked with the coach [Alberto Zaccheroni] and he wished to participate in the tournament.”
A resolution has been made with such haste that the UAE announced an experimental squad on Thursday for a training camp in Dubai, set to feature friendlies against unnamed opposition on December 17 and Algeria on December 23
Infantino will be at the opening games in Kuwait City on December 22 and 23. The Swiss administrator hailed a “powerful message to the world” created by the chance in stance.
He said: “The initiative to move the 2017 Gulf Cup from Qatar to Kuwait to celebrate this event is a strong and symbolic sign. In this context, I would like to express my gratitude to the teams of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen for participating in this tournament.
“The 2017 Gulf Cup will be a great celebration of football in the whole region and to have all eight teams participating in Kuwait sends a very powerful message to the world.”
A new draw is to be held on Monday. The UAE won the 2013 running and finished third in 2015.
Al Jazira midfielder Mbark Boussoufa is bracing himself for a tough battle in the Abu Dhabi side’s FIFA Club World Cup (FCWC) opener against Auckland City in Al Ain on Wednesday, but is hopeful the home team will put together a solid performance.
Despite having had a tough start to their Arabian Gulf League title defence, the Pride of Abu Dhabi now look revitalised and sit six points behind leaders Al Ain.
But their focus must now switch to the FCWC where they are assured of much tougher challenges against the best continental sides on the globe.
“We know we are facing a very difficult team, with some good players, so it’s gonna be very tough for us,” said the Moroccan Boussoufa in the video above, provided by by Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the FCWC UAE 2017 announced that all preparations for the tournament are complete ahead of Wednesday’s 21:00 kick-off when Al Jazira take on FCWC veterans, Auckland City, who descend on the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium to participate in the competition for a record-breaking ninth time.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for the club, players and for the UAE,” said Al Jazira Coach, Henk ten Cate on Tuesday. “We aim to make everyone proud of the team. We hope to have a lot of support, not only from Al Jazira fans, but from every football fan in the country. We are not only playing for Al Jazira but for the UAE so we would love to see fans come down to this big game.”
Spectators will have the exciting opportunity to watch their football heroes, such as Al Jazira’s star striker, Ali Mabkhout. The goal-machine could prove to be instrumental to his side’s quest to progress to the quarter-finals. Joining Mabkhout on the pitch is Brazilian striker and FCWC winner, Romarinho, who is confident that Al Jazira can kick-off the tournament on a winning note.
“The team is ready and there is no reason as to why we shouldn’t progress to the second round,” said Romarinho. “I believe that Al Jazira can put on a great performance tonight and beat Auckland City. Nothing is impossible in this tournament.”
In the next 10 days the UAE capital will welcome some of the world’s most talented football players as they take to the pitch to play eight pivotal matches. Joining Al Jazira and Auckland City FC are the most-decorated side in European football, the iconic all-whites of Real Madrid and their star-studded squad including the recently-crowned FIFA Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real will join CONCACAF Champions League winners, C.F Pachuca from Mexico, who will face Wydad Athletic Club on Saturday, December 9 at 17:00 at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium. The winners of this match will go on to play CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores champions, Gremio in the first semi-final on Thursday December 12 in Al Ain.
“We are delighted to welcome seven continental champions to the UAE for what will be a marvellous celebration of football,” said, Aref Al Awani, tournament director of the LOC. “Each team has a significant role to play in the tournament and we wish each and every team and player the best of luck for their matches ahead.”
Meanwhile, Al Jazira defender Mohamed Fawzi says he realises the level of focus and discipline his team will need to succeed and make the home crowd proud.
“We are very proud to represent the UAE in the Club World Cup. I think every player aspires to play in this kind of Championship. We have to support our young players and my advice to them is to give their all,” said Fawzi.
Houriya Al Taheri, UAE women’s national team assistant coach and the first Arab woman to receive a professional coaching license, believes that the FIFA Club World Cup UAE, hosted in the UAE in 2017 and 2018, is set to leave a lasting legacy for women’s football in the country.
The football trailblazer is certain that the prestigious club competition, which takes place from December 6-16, will have a positive impact on the future of women’s football and will help unearth local talent that can then go on to represent the Emirates on the world’s sporting stage.
“Future is bright for the next generation of female football players in the UAE,” said Al Taheri. “Where we are today as the UAE women’s national football team is the culmination of all the efforts of government organisations in the country to propel women’s football at all levels.
“Abu Dhabi continuously strives to create equal opportunities for men and women in the sporting arena through bringing prestigious world-class events and some of the world’s most inspiring athletes to the capital.”
Abu Dhabi is set to host the 2017 and 2018 FIFA Club World Cup, following its success in 2009 and 2010. The AFC Asian Cup will also take place in the UAE in 2019, which will be the largest football event ever held in the region.
The capital’s burgeoning football portfolio sees world-class events deliver a host of benefits for the emirate including the discovery of local talent and the development of the sport at a local and international level.
Al Taheri strongly agrees that elite football competitions, whether men’s or women’s, have a powerful influence on professional footballers and budding talents.
“These events help empower the next generation to take up the sport, participate and learn from the world’s best,” she says.
This December, all eyes will be on Abu Dhabi as millions around the world will be following the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.
Seven club champions will descend on the UAE capital to play eight title-deciding matches across 11 days in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Ticket sales have been overwhelmingly positive and are close to selling out, a reflection of the strong appetite for the sport in the country.
The last three or four years have seen a marked rise in the popularity of – and participation in – women’s football in the UAE. From 800 female football players in 2013, today there are close to 2,300 women playing the sport regularly as part of clubs, leagues, academies and the UAE women’s national football team.
“What really helped us play more football regularly in past years was the access to facilities. This kind of support, which is sometimes the result of bringing world-class sporting events to the UAE, encourages a lot of women to get into sports and support events such as the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017,” said Al Taheri.
One of Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s key mandates is to give Emirati men and women the unique opportunity to participate and get involved in the high-calibre sporting events that Abu Dhabi hosts.
Al Taheri is ecstatic about the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup because not only will she and her team-mates attend as football fans, they have key roles to play in supporting the Local Organising Committee (LOC) on the ground to make this tournament a great success.
“The FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010 in the UAE were fantastic and I am definitely proud of the strides we made in men’s and women’s football since then,” she added. “However, at the time we didn’t have a women’s national team and so our involvement in those tournaments was mostly as supporters and fans.
“This year is completely different. We are not only involved in promoting the tournament but we are working with FIFA and the LOC to make this tournament a huge success for all involved.”
We are excited to announce that Houriya Taheri, the first Emirati woman to obtain an "A" coaching license from FIFA, will be one of our speakers at ICSW 2017. You can sign up for her workshop, Emirati Success Stories, through the link in our bio يسرنا أن نعلن أن حورية طاهري، أول مرأة إماراتية تحصل على رخصة التدريب من فئة A من الفيفا، ستكون أحد متحدثينا في المؤتمر الدولي لرياضة المرأة 2017 خلال ورشة العمل بعنوان "قصص نجاح إماراتية". يمكنكم التسجيل لحضور ورشة العمل التي ستقدمها حورية الآن عبر الرابط أعلى الصفحة #ICSW2017#InspiringGenerations #FBMA #ADFBMA #MovingForward #AbuDhabi #InAbuDhabi #sports #sportswoman #athlete #arabathletes #football #womensfootball #womenssoccer #إلهام_الأجيال #المؤتمر_الدولي_لرياضة_المرأة #أكاديمية_فاطمة_بنت_مبارك_للرياضة_النسائية #نمضي_قدمًا #أبوظبي #في_أبوظبي #رياضة #رياضة_نسائية #نساء_رياضيات
Al Taheri has joined FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG), a panel of experts who have studied matches for the last four decades, to learn and understand how matches are analysed.
“I love learning new things and being involved in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 with TSG in this capacity will help me develop a new set of skills that can hopefully benefit women’s football in the country in the long run,” she said.
20-year-old Nouf Al Anzi is part of the UAE women’s national football squad. She kicked around a football for most of her life and was an avid fan who attended the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010.
“I was the flag-bearer at the 2010 tournament and that had definitely a lot to do with why I am a professional footballer today,” said Al Anzi.
This year, the LOC has given 38 boys and girls the unique opportunity to be a part of the tournament as official flag-bearers or ball carriers as part of the Youth Leadership Programme.
“These are opportunities in life that can play a pivotal role in helping youngsters find their true passion,” added Al Anzi. “I was not only elated to be a flag-bearer but to have had the opportunity to watch my football heroes play live on the pitch right here in Abu Dhabi. It was magical.
“I would encourage all female football fans in the UAE to get behind the FIFA Club World Cup and support the continental champions who will be competing for the most prestigious club title next month.”
Six teams have qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup to date: Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds, Morocco’s Wydad Athletic Club, Spain’s Real Madrid, New Zealand’s Auckland City FC, Mexico’s C.F. Pachuca and UAE’s Al Jazira. The final team will be determined when the Copa Libertadores final between Club Atletico Lanus and Gremio FootBall Porto-Alegrense concludes on Wednesday November 29.
Fans can take advantage of the tournament’s travel packages via www.fifa.com/uae2017.