x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The UAE has the world at its doorstep

2008 review: It was a year to remember for the UAE. The country won its bid to host the Club World Cup for the next two years in Abu Dhabi and the Pro League was succesfully implemented.

It was a year to remember for the UAE. The country won its bid to host the Club World Cup for the next two years in Abu Dhabi and the Pro League was succesfully implemented. The staging of Fifa's Club World Cup will put Abu Dhabi firmly on the world map as an exciting new venue for the sport. The competition could see the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona or Inter Milan traveling to the capital city.

The UAE Football Association president Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi was delighted at the time, saying: "I feel we are going in the right direction." The domestic league's new professional status has seen some top-class players come to these shores, with internationals Jorge Valdivia, from Chile, and Brazil's Rafael Sobis donning the club shirts in Al Ain and Al Jazira respectively after big money moves.

It is the first season and a move that could lure more players of international calibre to the country, and further raise the standard of the games. Al Shabab and Al Ahli, the league champions and the President's Cup winners, will fly the UAE flag in the Asian Champions League, and may be joined by Sharjah, who face the Indian club Dempo in a play-off. The Asian Football Confederation's decision to provide three direct entries for the UAE clubs in the 2009/10 edition of the revamped 32-team competition is a recognition of the success of the Pro League.

The selection was based on a points system that earned the UAE clubs three direct entries and a place in the play-offs. apassela@thenational.ae