x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Qualification from Asia for World Cup finals is harder

The inability of the national side to replicate the success of the team that qualified for the 1990 World Cup has been a topic of debate for more than two decades.

The UAE have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990.
The UAE have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990.

The inability of the national side to replicate the success of the team that qualified for the 1990 World Cup has been a topic of debate for more than two decades.

If that team could qualify, at a time when the population of the whole UAE was barely 1.9 million, why have subsequent teams been able to do the same?

"The competition in the rest of Asia became stronger," said Abdulqadir Hassan, a goalkeeper with the 1990 team. "We have not been the best in Asia. Japan have come forward, as well as South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

"As for our team in 1990, we did not prepare for 1994 properly. We did not play enough strong teams to get us ready."

Ahmed Khalifa Hammad, the chief executive of the Al Ahli club, expanded on the rise of formidable competition in the Asian Football Confederation.

"Several of the teams on the other side of the continent are very well organised, better than us," he said. "They had professional leagues before we did.

"Where was Japan in 1989, and where are they now?

"The national team is a reflection of the competition within the country. If the competition is good it will provide us with a player who can compete at a high standard.

"Some of this is the responsibility of the clubs. Some of it comes from the system itself, from the FA. We need to have a very clear vision for our football industry and a strategy that can be implemented by the clubs and all the sports councils. Everyone should be involved."

The UAE would seem to be in pursuit of South Korea, North Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iran, all of whom have played in at least two World Cups since 1990. South Korea have played in all five finals.

At most, five Asia sides will play in Brazil 2014, and if the UAE are to be one of them they must displace one of those five powers.

"We have not concentrated on our preparations as well," Hassan said. "Not like those teams have."

Khaled Awadh, the deputy chief executive of Al Wahda and the team manager of the UAE team that came so close to qualifying in 2002 ("It was very painful," he said), cut straight to the talent on the field.

"The quality of the players is the biggest issue," he said. "We have had some of the best coaches in the world, coaches who succeeded with other clubs and other national teams, but here the quality wasn't the same."

He blames UAE club sides for not developing players and creating environments where they can improve. "The clubs are not cooperating much. We are not working for the benefit of the country, and the level of play is not high.

"Last season we had Al Jazira, and they were champions by 12 points. That shows they were good, but the others were not. One club is doing good and the others are not."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae


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