DUBAI // When the UAE captain Abdulraheem Jumaa leads his team on to the field for their all-important World Cup qualifier against Iran tomorrow night, they will be carrying the "responsibility" of continuing the mood of celebration sweeping through the country. Football in the country has been in party mode since the triumph of the youth team in the AFC Under 19 Championship in Dammam, Saudi Arabia on Friday. The festivities have raised the spirits of Jumaa's side, who face an uphill battle to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The UAE have not won a point in the first three games of the final round of Asian qualifying and only victory against Iran can keep alive their dreams of qualifying for the world's biggest football show. There is great optimism in the side, though, and the victory of the U19s is serving as an inspiration. The star of the U19 campaign, Ahmed Khalil, was called into the UAE squad and visited the training camp on Sunday night to be greeted by a round of applause by his new teammates. He was given the night off though by coach Dominique Bathenay, and joined training last night.
"We wholeheartedly congratulate the youth team for their success," said Jumaa. "This win augurs well for our game against Iran. We hope we can continue this atmosphere of joy flooding the hearts of all football fans in the country. We have a responsibility to do that and we will do our best to revive our hopes of qualifying for South Africa." Subait Khater, the veteran mid-fielder from Al Jazira, shared his captain's sentiments. "We are proud of their achievement," he said. "I hope their success will reflect in our performance against Iran. We have no alternative but to win against Iran to cling on to our hopes of qualification, and we will be seeking just that when we take the field."
Nawaf Mubarak, the Al Sharjah midfielder, added: "It was a great pleasure for us to see our brothers win and we will strive to continue this chain of success and the mood of celebration. God willing, we will join the U17 and U19 teams in qualifying for the World Cup and triple the joy." Abdullah Malallah said victory for the young team had "doubled the responsibility" on the senior team. "Now we have to make sure we put in that extra effort in the game against Iran," said the Al Ain player. "We have to keep the smiles on the faces of our fans and continue the good work of our young brothers. We need to build on the success of their great win."
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