x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE must join Qatar in 2022

The man behind South Africa's World Cup bid is confident the Gulf tournament will succeed and hopes as many regional teams make it to the finals.

The UAE’s Haidar Ali Mohamed watches as a North Korea player runs off with the ball during a 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign in which his side lost all but one of their eight games in the final qualifying group. They have been urged to improve in time for the 2022 competition.
The UAE’s Haidar Ali Mohamed watches as a North Korea player runs off with the ball during a 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign in which his side lost all but one of their eight games in the final qualifying group. They have been urged to improve in time for the 2022 competition.

ABU DHABI // The man who broke new ground in football by masterminding South Africa's successful bid to host this year's World Cup yesterday told the UAE that they must be in the finals in Qatar when the tournament is staged in the Middle East for the first time in 2022.

Danny Jordaan, who as chief executive of his country's bidding committee co-ordinated the plan to take football's showpiece event to a new part of the world, welcomed the addition of Qatar to the hosting club following the controversial Fifa voting sessions in Zurich last week.

He was grateful to have five other African nations for company in the 32-team event and stressed that it is paramount Qatar has at least one Gulf neighbour on parade in 12 years' time.

"The UAE have qualified once before [in 1990] so why not again?" said Jordaan, pointing to other unlikely appearances among football's elite by nations like Kuwait (1982), Ecuador (2002 and 2006) and Trinidad and Tobago (2006).

"There is no doubt in my mind that this country has the resources to conduct a successful qualifying campaign.

"I would like to see them use as many of those resources to earn the right to play alongside Qatar [automatic qualifiers as hosts]. The UAE must be there."

Jordaan knew exactly how bidders from England and Australia felt in Zurich last week, just as much as he knew how those responsible for the Russian and Qatar bids felt.

"The most stressful feeling of all is seeing that envelope open with another country's name on it," he said. "That happened to us in 2004 [when the 2006 tournament was awarded to Germany] but that feeling of despair contrasts enormously with the elation of seeing your own country on that envelope.

"I am so pleased for Qatar," Jordaan added. "The big advantage they have over us is time. We had not much more than a year to get everything into place. They have nearly 12 years and I am sure they are going to make the most of that.

"They have probably started their preparations already and I'm sure that when they open the doors to the football world for the first time they will do so with as much success as we did."

Jordaan, visiting Abu Dhabi at the start of the Club World Cup to address the Arabian Sponsorship Forum at Yas Hotel, maintained that the efficiency of his team's organisation of the 64-match showpiece in June and July gave Fifa the confidence to take the event to first-time hosts like Russia and Qatar.

"They said it was a risk to give it to us, but risk brings reward and we rewarded them amply for taking that risk. I'm sure Russia and Qatar will give them similar rewards."

Jordaan dismissed the notion that intense heat in the middle of the year will spoil Qatar's party.

"I've been in an air-conditioned stadium in hot weather and it was fine," he said.

"The obvious concern is outside the grounds but I am sure that when the time comes everything will be done to make it an attractive event for overseas supporters to visit. Maybe they will even have special areas for them to enjoy a drink or two."

Jordaan, who is in the process of applying for a place on Fifa's executive committee, was not surprisingly guarded about discussing the controversies of last week's voting process.

He was given a thorough grilling by representatives of the BBC and Sky News over England's failure to earn more than two votes but refused to accept the allegation that there is any corruption within the sport's governing body.

 

wjohnson@thenational.ae