The UAE’s proposal to relax international eligibility rules was soundly defeated in a vote at the Fifa congress yesterday, ending hopes of early reinforcement of the national team by Pro League expatriates.
The provision would have lowered the required residency time for gaining a passport from five years to three, and was backed by the Football Association, the Pro League and the national team coach, Srecko Katanec.
“It would have been better for the country to see it reduced,” Katanec said last night. “Five years is difficult. It is a long period.
“Maybe Fifa is afraid that passports will be given out too easily.”
The proposal was defeated on a 153-42 vote.
Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, president of the FA, had argued at the congress that the change would have been good for small countries trying to qualify for the World Cup. The UAE played in the 1990 World Cup but has not been back since.
Al Rumaithi also said that countries with large expatriate communities would benefit.
Earlier this week, Dr Saleem bin Suroor al Shamsi, head of the UAE’s players status and transfer committee, had expressed optimism that the measure would pass. “I think this will go through because Africa and Asia are big supporters,” he said.
Carlo Nohra, chief executive of the Pro League said: “We believe it is important to open the door to all residents in the country.”
The Brazilians Fernando Baiano, Pinga and Bare are among Pro League stalwarts who have played in the country for three seasons. Only a few have been here five seasons, among them the Al Wasl striker, Alexandre Oliveira, 32.
In 2008, Fifa had increased the residency requirement to five years from two.
* With agency