The dreams of a group of talented university students from across the UAE came true today, as they were selected for the starting lineup of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Local Organising Committee’s “Home Team”.
After a long selection process, the successful students anticipated a day of formal briefings and orientation at the AFC Asian Cup offices before embarking on their three-month internship programme. But after being shuttled only a short distance away, they found themselves on the pitch of the famous stadium, where they were joined by Dubai Eye’s leading host of Sport Tonight, Chris McHardy.
McHardy led the delighted students through to the stadium changing rooms, where Home Team kits had been prepared, before launching into an impassioned team talk about each player’s responsibilities in “Bringing Asia Together” over the coming months.
For these aspiring young professionals, it was an unconventional start to a programme which will see them play an important role in raising awareness for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 to the different communities. With wide-ranging and comprehensive responsibilities, the team will contribute to the pre-tournament build up by promoting the tournament to businesses, schools and communities.
Aref Hamed Al Awani, Tournament Director of the Local Organising Committee, said: “Because of the immense scale involved in hosting an event like the AFC Asian Cup, we need a diverse group of dedicated, energetic youth on the ground, who can bring the spirit of the tournament directly into the heart of all communities across the UAE.
“We have the potential in the UAE for this competition to feel like a ‘home’ tournament for every nation if we can get communities to rally behind their teams and our AFC Home Team will seek to do just that, by meeting face-to-face and sharing their passion for football.”
Home Team member Mariam Taha from Al Ain, added: “It’s amazing. For the first day of my internship, I was not expecting to find myself on the pitch of Zayed Sports City. With Chris acting as manager and outlining everyone’s roles, I think we all became really excited about the road ahead. He told me Abu Dhabi is my pitch and that it was up to me to unite the communities in the capital behind this great tournament. I’ve got lots to do and I can’t wait to get started. I’m proud and excited.”
Dzsudzsak was approaching the final months of his contract after signing a two-year deal when he arrived in Abu Dhabi from Turkish club Bursaspor in August 2016. But the Clarets released a statement on Tuesday saying that the 31-year-old will no longer be playing for the capital city side.
“The board of directors of Al Wahda Football Club and the fans thank the Hungarian captain Balazs Dzsudzsak for his efforts during his stay with the team. We wish him all the success,” wrote the club on their official Twitter account.
Dzsudzsak moved to Wahda on the back of an impressive Euro 2016 campaign with Hungary and quickly established himself as a key player for the Clarets. In his first season, he helped the club win the President’s Cup following a thrilling victory over rivals Al Ain in what was the last game for former Mexico and Japan boss Javier Aguirre.
Former Al Hilal supremo Laurentiu Reghecampf then took over and he continued to be an integral part of the Romanian’s plans. Last season Dzsudzsak added two more pieces of silverware with the Arabian Gulf Super Cup and the Arabian Gulf Cup won, while Wahda finished runners-up in the Arabian Gulf League.
In his two seasons he scored 15 goals in all competitions.
The 6th Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament came to a fitting close on Wednesday night with Emirates Driving Institute (EDI) defeating Al Bahri on penalties in a wildly-swinging final of the NAS Futsal Championship.
With His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai International Marine Club, watching from the stands along with more than 5,600 fans who had crammed the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex, EDI and Al Bahri put up a spectacular show for them, with the latter scoring an equaliser in the final second of extra time – the hero being their goalkeeper Mayed Ali Al Maeeni – to force the final into penalties where EDI prevailed 3-2.
Emirates Driving, of course, will consider themselves deserving champions for they were in the driving seat for most of the game. They made a blazing start, taking a 3-0 lead in the first 16 minutes with goals from Williams Oliver Do Nascimento, Sabry Jamil and Abdulkarim Jamil.
Al Bahri, however, fought back to level the scores before the end of the first half, thanks to goals from Essam Alla Shamkh, Hamad Al Shamsi and Helal Al Jaberi.
A stunning goal by Sabry Jamil put EDI back in the lead in the 25th minute, but Mohammed Abdessamad made it 4-4 in the 32nd minute and, despite frantic efforts in the tense closing minutes, there was no addition to the score-line in regulation time.
In extra time, EDI once again took an early lead, through Do Nascimento in the 2nd minute, and looked to be cruising towards victory until Al Maeeni stunned their fans into silence with the equaliser in the final second of 10 minutes of extra time.
Emirates Driving, however, were not be denied in the ensuing penalties and their emotions flowed freely as they received the winner’s trophy from Sheikh Mansoor.
“I think this is the best final we’ve had in the history of the tournament,” said EDI’s Abdulkarim Jamil, who was winning the title for the third time. He had earlier won with Fuhood Zaabeel in 2014 and then with Al Taher last year.
“Credit to Al Bahri for the way they kept fighting back, especially from 0-3 down in the first half. I am really going to cherish this medal and this match for the rest of my life.”
Sheikh Mansoor also presented the individual winners with their trophies. In addition to the gold medal, Do Nascimento also picked up two individual awards – Best Foreign Player and the Golden Boot for his 10 goals in the tournament. Ahmed Abdullah of Al Taher was named the Best Emirati Player of the tournament, while Hassan Ali Al Hantoobi picked up the Best Goalkeeper award.
Sheikh Mansoor was accompanied by His Excellency Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, the Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police and chairman of the tournament’s Organising Committee, His Excellency Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, and Hassan Al Mazrouei, Director of the NAS Sports Tournament.
Organised by Dubai Sports Council (DSC) under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, the 2018 Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament saw more than 5,000 athletes take part across 11 different sports.
This year, the tournament also had an international flavour with a five-a-side futsal competition taking place in the Egyptian capital Cairo and an eight-team volleyball tournament being held in Amman, Jordan.
Major General Al Marri congratulated Sheikh Hamdan for the success of the tournament and said: “This NAS Tournament is not just a sports tournament, but it is a social event that brings together people from different communities. We saw more than 5,000 participants take part this year in 11 different sports, and we had a great number of fans present here at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex every night.
“I congratulate all the winners and thank the fans, and also all the staff and the members of different committees who have worked tirelessly to make this tournament a success.
“The sixth edition of the NAS Sports Tournament has surpassed the past years and become a huge success, not just in terms of the number of participants and fans we attracted here in Dubai, but also because the tournament crossed our borders for the first time and was staged in Egypt and Jordan as well.
“We also launched the Sports Fingerprint Award as one of the initiatives of this tournament. So we are really pleased with what we have achieved this year and we hope to achieve even greater success next year.”
Final: Emirates Driving Institute beat Al Bahri 3-2 on penalties (5-5)
3rd Place: Dubai Police beat Al Taher 5-2
Top Goalscorer: Williams Oliver Do Nascimento (EDI)
Best Foreign Player: Williams Oliver Do Nascimento (EDI)
Best Emirati Player: Ahmed Abdullah (Al Taher)
Best Goalkeeper: Hassan Ali Al Hantoobi (EDI)