Foreign footballers such as Fernando Baiano, Andre Senghor and Bare could be eligible to play for the UAE national team
UAE ask Fifa to change residency rule for players
Foreign footballers such as Fernando Baiano, Andre Senghor and Bare could be eligible to play for the UAE national team if the Football Association's proposal to reduce residency requirements for citizenship from five years to three is passed at the Fifa congress this week.
Fifa's 208 member associations are expected to vote on the proposal in Zurich on Wednesday.
"We believe that five years is too long to wait for citizenship, and I know there were some countries who wanted the time to be two years, but three is about right," said Dr Saleem bin Suroor al Shamsi, the head of the UAE's players status and transfer committee.
"I think this will go through because Africa and Asia are big supporters, and they are not alone. It is going to help smaller countries such as us to improve the national team because we would have a bigger pool to choose from."
If the rule passes, the UAE would be able to field a national team that included players age 18 or over who have lived in the UAE continuously for three years and have not played internationally for their home country.
Among expatriates who have played in the Pro League for the past three seasons are the strikers Baiano, Senghor and Bare, who among them have scored 120 league goals since the 2008/09 season, and the midfielder, Pinga, who has scored 35. None of the four, three Brazilians and the Senegalese Senghor, are known to have played for the countries of their birth.
The UAE has also asked that players under 18 be eligible if they have lived in a country for five years, which would allow young expatriates to represent the UAE at youth level.
The UAE has used Omani-born players before. If the proposal passes they could lay claim to players from bigger football nations at the Pro League clubs, as well as young players who develop here but then return home.
"Before, if a player turned 21 and was not born here, the country of their birth would snap them up," Dr al Shamsi said. "That has happened a lot to us. Now we would be able to pick them. The clubs have started to bring through young African players and, if these rules changes are made, they could represent the UAE.
"Maybe one day we will see a Brazilian play for us. I hope so. That's the idea. This country has so many nationalities living here, and we want to see some of them represented in our football team. Also this would give many more players the opportunity to play international football that they would not have had as their own country would not play them."
Srecko Katanec, the national team coach, would welcome the chance to get young African or Asian players into the side.
"I have always said that if a young player who is not born in the country, has lived here and schooled here, then that FA should be able to work with him," he said. "I would like to see that because it would give me more options to choose from."
Other countries have used foreign-born players for their national teams. Qatar has five Brazilian-born players in their squad, in part because its professional league has few restrictions on foreign signings and players tend to stay for five years or more.
The rule change could have an effect on the Pro League because clubs could entice players who might not have a chance to play for their home country to come here and play for the UAE.
Carlo Nohra, the chief executive of the league, supports the proposal.
"This is something we have been in discussions about with the UAE FA and we believe it is important to open the door to all residents in the country," he said.