x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Decision day on Fifa World Cups looms for UAE

The UAE Football Association will learn on Thursday if the country will play host to one of three Fifa age-group competitions and the annual congress in 2012 or 2013.

UAE players take to the field for a match during the 2009 Under 20 World Cup in Alexandria, Egypt. Julian Finney / Getty Images
UAE players take to the field for a match during the 2009 Under 20 World Cup in Alexandria, Egypt. Julian Finney / Getty Images

The UAE Football Association will learn tomorrow if the country will play host to one of three Fifa age-group competitions for which it has bid, as well as whether Dubai will be the site of the 2012 or 2013 annual world congress for football's organising body.

The FA has bid for the 2013 Under 17 and Under 20 World Cups, and the 2014 Women's Under 17 World Cup. Each tournament features 24 national teams competing in six groups of four, and a total of 52 matches.

"We are feeling we can get the men's Under 17 and the world congress in 2012 or 2013," said Yousuf Abdullah, the general secretary of the UAE FA. "If we can get these two it would be great for us."

The country previously has hosted only one world age-group event, the men's Under 20 competition in 2003, which included future elite players such as Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Nilmar, Kleber and the Emiratis Ismail Matar and Ali al Wehaibi. More than 55,000 people saw the final at Zayed Sports City in which Brazil defeated Spain 1-0.

Abdullah said the FA would be pleased to be named host for two of the three tournaments on which it has bid, "but the UAE cannot win everything".

The winning bids will be announced at the conclusion of a two-day Fifa executive committee meeting in Zurich. The 2013 Under 17 tournament has only two bidders: the UAE and Ghana.

Abdullah is a fan of the tournament. "This is big for the people looking to the future of football all over the world," he said.

"These boys would come here from all over the world and show their talent. They are playing football for football's sake, to show their skill. It would be great for us to have this here, to look at the quality of the young players from the different continents."

The UAE has three competitors for the 2013 Under 20 tournament, Colombia, Turkey and Uzbekistan; and five rivals for the 2014 women's tournament: Costa Rica, Ghana, Macedonia, Russia and Uzbekistan.

"We are looking to improve our women's football," Abdullah said. "We are only at the beginning."

The FA is trying to raise the profile of the country as a football destination, he said. "These events are very important for us to promote our football inside and outside the country and to improve our football."

The Fifa congress is significant, he said: "Because it would bring all 208 Fifa members to the Emirates, and it would be good for the people to see us and our football."

He said the FA bid books call for matches to be played in as many as 12 stadiums, at least one in each of the seven emirates. Dates have not been fixed, he said, but he indicated that the Under 17 men's tournament is normally held in October or November.

Other Fifa tournament hosts to be named tomorrow include those for the 2015 Women's World Cup, the women's 2012 and 2014 Under 20 World Cup, and the men's 2015 Under 17 and Under 20 tournaments.

Fifa also will reveal the allocation of 2014 World Cup berths by continent.

Africa had six teams in the 2010 World Cup, including host South Africa, but only one, Ghana, advanced out of the first round, and some have speculated that Africa could be guaranteed only five spots in Brazil.

Which continent would gain a berth is open to speculation. Europe currently has 13 slots, Asia and South America 4.5 each, North America 3.5 and Oceania 0.5. With Brazil playing host to the 2014 World Cup, the rest of the continent's nine Conmebol nations would be competing for 3.5 berths unless South America gains a spot.

Announcements of winning bidders for age-group events, as well as the allocation of 2014 World Cup berths, will be made at a press conference beginning at 3pm in Zurich (6pm in the UAE), according to Julian Stanculescu, the head of communications and marketing for the FA.

"We are hoping for a good day," Abdullah said. "A big day for the UAE." He said the UAE delegation in Zurich will be led by Saeed Abdul Ghaffar, vice-president of the FA.