x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Homesick players not a problem

The UAE Under 20 team has spent large parts of the past year away from home, but Mohammed bin Khalfan al Rumaithi has dismissed concerns that homesickness could catch up with the youngsters ahead of the World Cup in Egypt.

The UAE Under 20 team has spent large parts of the past year away from home, but Mohammed bin Khalfan al Rumaithi has dismissed concerns that homesickness could catch up with the youngsters ahead of the World Cup in Egypt. After coming together for the Asian U19 Championships in Saudi Arabia, which they won last November, the squad have spent a lot of time on the road. They are currently training in Istanbul, Turkey, and will leave for Egypt on Thursday. Earlier this year, they had a 35-day camp in Switzerland and returned home for a short four-day break.

Al Rumaithi, president of the Football Association, thinks the youngsters are coping well with being away from home because of the camaraderie they have developed after several years together as a team. He said: "You are talking about players who are 19 and 20. They have been together for so long, they are virtually a family now. It is not a new team and this point gives me comfort. If it was a new team, maybe the players would get bored or homesick."

The FA, though, is not willing to take any chances and have made sure the families of players will be in Alexandria to support the players before they start their World Cup campaign against South Africa on September 27. "Of course they cannot stay with the team, in the same hotel. But knowing that their family members are around in the same town and attending, it will give the players that boost."

The family members will also be going to Turkey to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Fitr with the players since they will not be returning home for it. "The World Cup is a big mission for the players and everybody believes they have to make a few sacrifices for it, for the country." added al Rumaithi. arizvi@thenational.ae