x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE players on shopping list

The prospective chairman of Premier League side Portsmouth has put an Emirati player at the top of his shopping list.

The UAE striker Ismail al Hammadi, flanked by Germany's Robert Huth, left, and Andreas Hinkel shapes to shoot during his side's friendly defeat.
The UAE striker Ismail al Hammadi, flanked by Germany's Robert Huth, left, and Andreas Hinkel shapes to shoot during his side's friendly defeat.

DUBAI // Dr Sulaiman al Fahim, the prospective new chairman of English Premier League side Portsmouth, has put an Emirati player at the top of his shopping list. Al Fahim was due to fly to the United Kingdom today to meet club and league officials and start due diligence The takeover of the club known as "Pompey" is being funded by a series of investors via his Falcon Group, and al Fahim expects it to be completed before the start of the season.

"I am looking to buy one UAE player for the team, although our main focus will be on the English players. The team has some good talent," he said. The star of the UAE team is Ismail Matar, but he is under contract with the Abu Dhabi side Al Wahda. The Al Ahli striker Ahmed Khalil, who shone for the UAE Under 19 side that won the U19 Asian Cup and was named AFC Young Player of the Year for 2009, would be a more obvious target for Portsmouth.

He has already been invited to train with the English side Chelsea after his AFC award. Only three Emiratis have played football professionally outside the UAE. Fahed Masoud became the first when he spent the 2007/08 season with Qatar Sports Club in Doha. Ali al Kamali, born in Dubai, was registered with the Brazilian club Atletico Paranese last season, while Matar played twice on loan for the Qatar side Al Sadd last month.

Al Fahim declined to say how much his consortium is paying for the club, but said his first task would be to expand the Fratton Park stadium from a capacity of 20,000 to 30,000, before building a new ground at a later date. Portsmouth already have plans drawn up for a stadium to be built at the city's harbour, with a capacity for 36,000, but these were postponed in March with the club blaming the recession.

At the same time they unveiled plans to extend Fratton Park's capacity to 30,264 at a cost of £22million (Dh133.5m). The proposed stadium would cost £600m. "We are just waiting to do our due diligence and get final approval from the Premier League," said al Fahim, who will become chairman if the deal goes through. agiuffrida@thenational.ae lthornhill@thenational.ae