DUBAI // Enamoured by beach soccer's growing appeal, the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) have embarked on a mission to make the UAE one of the top four teams in the world. The UAE are the Asian champions and in November will be hosting the first Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup to be held in the continent. Making the tournament a success is top of DSC's agenda, but their plans go beyond the mega-event, which will see 16 teams from around the world participating.
"Our goal is to make UAE one of the top four teams in the world," said Dr Ahmad al Sharif, secretary general of DSC, yesterday. "We are the Asian champions and I believe we can do well at the World Cup as well. Maybe we can win the title on home soil. If we can reach the semis, anything is possible." The UAE national team coach, Marcelo Mendes, who will be flying out to Brazil tomorrow with his squad, is also confident of doing well at November's World Cup.
"We did well in the last World Cup in Marseille and I believe we have the experience to now go further. "When I came here two years ago, nobody knew much about beach soccer," said the 39-year-old Brazilian. "I know my players and I have full confidence in them. We are also the host nation, so that should work to our advantage. "If the fans can come to the stadium and fill the stands, it will give the players a major confidence boost. The crowds can push the team to go all the way."
Even if UAE fail this time around, DSC are putting together plans to make the country one of the world's best. The DSC have signed a partnership agreement with the UAE Football Association, which gives them the responsibility of supervising the organisation of beach soccer competitions, sponsoring the UAE national team and providing all means to prepare the side for international championships. Putting their plans in motion, the DSC will organise a local beach soccer league. Talks are also ongoing between UAE, Oman and Qatar to have a Gulf championship.
The DSC will also be conducting workshops for players, referees and administrators, and coaching clinics for children. "We want to spread the game at the grassroots level, so we will be co-ordinating with the schools and building special beach soccer fields for them," said al Sharif. "We can then pick the most promising children and develop them for future. We want to have about 250 players playing the game, so we have a wider pool to choose from.
"We also have plans to develop two special beach soccer fields in every city. During Ramadan, we will be conducting the UAE Beach Soccer Championship, with about eight to 12 teams participating. "In November, we are planning to have a tournament here for the champions of Brazil and Europe. Our ultimate goal is to spread the game all over the UAE. Hopefully, we will achieve our targets soon." email@example.com