x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Hungarian red herring for practice angers UAE officials

The under 23 side that lost 5-0 to them was apparently an U17 community team.

The UAE coach Mahdi Ali prefers to have difficult games for practice and training.
The UAE coach Mahdi Ali prefers to have difficult games for practice and training.

LIENZ, AUSTRIA // The UAE Olympic football team returned to training in soggy southern Austria yesterday, one day after the mystery of "who were those Hungarians?" appeared to be solved.

The UAE overpowered a team of Hungarians 5-0 in heavy rain at the Dolomiten Stadion here on Wednesday night. The visiting side had been described by the Hungary federation as a national team, but they were not the Under 23 side, according to several sources in that country, who said Hungary currently do not field an age-group team older than U20.

Balazs Fogl, a Hungarian journalist, said that inquiries to the country's football federation indicated that the team apparently was Hungary's U17 National Minority Team, made up of members of the Romani community, formerly known as Gypsies.

Fogl said the side had one older player with it, the 21-year-old goalkeeper who served as captain, but he said he would not have expected a 5-0 defeat, even against a strong UAE side.

"This Hungarian team should have done better," he said in an email.

"The majority of them reached the second place at Europeada 2012, the European Championship of National Ethnic Minorities. There were 20 teams altogether and this Hungarian selection finished second."

In that tournament, last month, a team of German speakers from south Tyrol, which is now inside Italy's borders, won the championship, ahead of Hungary's Romani team.

The match was scoreless for 40 minutes, but the UAE scored easily after that, and FA officials were not happy that the game was so lopsided.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, is thought to prefer difficult matches, and perhaps even defeats, in friendlies, believing them to be learning experiences for his side.

In five friendlies played since the UAE arrived in the Alps, they defeated the Swiss club Sion 1-0; lost 4-2 to the prominent Ukraine side Shakhtar Donetsk; defeated the Romania club Vaslui 1-0 after shifting their base to Austria; drew 1-1 with Gabon's Olympic team; and defeated the Hungarians 5-0.

Their two remaining friendlies are against the Honduras Olympic team on Monday, and the New Zealand Olympic team on July 19. Both Honduras and New Zealand will compete in London 2012, as will Gabon.

The players had the day off on Thursday, and nearly all of them availed of the opportunity to take a long bus ride north to Munich, in Germany, to do some touring and shopping.

It was their second off day of the current camp; the first was in Switzerland on July 1, when the team travelled to Geneva.

Rain fell in Lienz for most of the day yesterday, and more is expected today, and the Emiratis were likely to get more chances to train in conditions they may well find in London at the Olympics, which begin on July 26. The UAE opens play on that date against Luis Suarez and Uruguay at Old Trafford in Manchester.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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