Yousuf Al Serkal, UAE FA chief, says the Fifa Under 17 World Cup will help turn the focus to grass roots growth and development, writes Osman Samiuddin.
Fifa Under 17 World Cup: Developing players key focus of tournament
Abu Dhabi // The countdown to the 2013 Under 17 football World Cup began officially on Tuesday night with the unveiling of the tournament emblem at a ceremony in the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The 15th edition of the junior tournament will be held across six of the top stadiums in the UAE from October 17 to November 8 and is widely touted to be the largest football tournament to be held here, with 24 teams and 52 matches over the three weeks.
The emblem was painted on to a black canvas live as part of the ceremony, the central motif of a pearl inside an oyster shell in the national colours of the UAE chosen to capture the significance of pearl diving as part of the country's heritage.
"We are paying a lot of attention to the development of football in general and in particular for our national teams," Yousuf Al Serkal, the head of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the UAE Football Aassociation head said.
"So we look at the grass roots and look to develop football right from the grass roots.
"Our intention is to make sure we host a prestigious competition to enhance the development of our players right from an early age."
Al Serkal also revealed that promotional activities for the tournament will revolved around Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, the national team's star playmaker.
"We now have different stages which have been agreed upon with Fifa of which the inauguration of the emblem was the first. We need to create a lot of publicity for the tournament internally and externally.
"We already have assigned Omar Abdulrahman to be the ambassador of this tournament, the player on whom we will depend on promotion of the tournament."
As well as hosting the Fifa Club World Cup on two occasions, the UAE has also hosted the Under 20 World Cup in 2003.
One of the major reasons to watch the biennial event has been to spot future stars; Ronaldinho, Luis Figo, Juan Sebastian Veron and Alessandro Del Piero are some of the players who have played in the tournament in the past.
"You'll have here the stars of tomorrow and if you look at those who played in past tournaments we know them all as stars today," said David Borja, Fifa's senior manager for the Asian development programmes.
"The 16-year-old players in this tournament are already playing at a very high level and that's one of the main reasons why fans will come out to watch this.
"It is a very important tournament for Fifa because of that. There is a great infrastructure here in the UAE and it is a football-crazy region so we are looking forward to the tournament."
Along with the UAE, who qualify automatically as hosts, Iran, Iraq, Japan and Uzbekistan have already qualified for the tournament.
The remaining 19 places will be divided between Africa (four), Europe (six), North and Central America (four), South America (four) and the Oceania region (one). Mexico won the last tournament in 2011.
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