x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Gulf Cup turmoil for Bathenay

Differences between the UAE FA and the Professional League Association have thrown the UAE's preparation plans for the defence of their Gulf Cup crown in disarray.

DUBAI // Differences between the UAE Football Association and the Professional League Association have thrown the UAE's preparation plans for the defence of their Gulf Cup crown in disarray. Dominique Bathenay's side were scheduled to assemble on Dec 22 for a 12-day training camp before leaving for Oman on Jan 2. Friendly matches have also been fixed for that duration, with the UAE playing Iraq on Dec 27, Kuwait on Dec 30 and Syria in a possible third game.

Those plans, however, could change after the Competitions Committee of the PLA turned down a request to postpone the 11th round of the Pro League, which is scheduled for Dec 24. If they refuse to budge, the UAE side will takeon Iraq after just one day together. Yousuf Abdullah, the general secretary of the UAE FA, insists the PLA were consulted before making plans for the national team and they had agreed. The Competitions Committee of the PLA, on their part, claim the previous national coach Bruno Metsu had asked for just a 10-day camp and the matches were scheduled accordingly.

The UAE won the Gulf Cup in Abu Dhabi two years agi and will kick-off the defence of their title on Jan 5 against Yemen, later meeting Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group 2 of the competition and the top two teams will advance to the semi-finals. The other group includes hosts Oman, Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain. The other teams taking part in the 19th edition of the Gulf Cup have already begun their preparations. Yemen are camping in Tunisia; Kuwait will train in Cairo, Iraq will assemble in Dubai on Dec 10 and take on the UAE and AC Milan here. Hosts Oman start a training camp on Dec 15.

Abdullah, however, is confident the Whites will be ready to defend their crown in the short training camp. "I think that is not a problem for us," he said. "We have a strong league with tough competition, so our players will be physically ready for the Gulf Cup. The players from countries like Iraq and Oman don't have that. I believe we will be fully ready by the time we leave for Oman." This embarrassing situation developed on a day three-time World Cup winners Germany announced their plans to play a friendly against the Bathenay's men in Dubai on June 2.

The Germans will play against the UAE for just the third time. They won 5-1 in the 1990 World Cup finals and prevailed 2-0 in a friendly in Abu Dhabi in 1994. Abdullah is excited about the game against the Germans, four days before the UAE's penultimate 2010 World Cup qualifier against South Korea. "You don't get to play a top team like Germany very often," he said. "This match will showcase UAE football to the world.

"Technically, it will be of not much value to us, but it will be massive game marketing wise." arizvi@thenational.ae