x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE’s past record delivers hope for the big show ahead

The hosts have a spectacle in mind for the opening ceremonies, writes Amith Passela.

The UAE Under 17 team trained at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Ravindranath K / The National
The UAE Under 17 team trained at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // In most instances, Brazil playing Slovakia to kick-start a three-week long Fifa Under 17 World Cup, which starts today, should provide ample excitement and set the tone for the tournament.

However, when it comes to staging an event of this calibre in the UAE, the hosts take a lot of pride in turning the event into a spectacle that will live long in the memory.

As well as the three-time winners of the U17 World Cup Brazil facing off against Slovakia at 5pm the UAE get their campaign underway against Honduras at 8pm with both games taking place at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, where the official opening ceremony takes place, while in Ras Al Khaimah, in Group B, Uruguay meet New Zealand in the early game and Ivory Coast v Italy takes place after.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the head of the organising committee and the Minister for Culture, Youth and Community Development, said all preparation has been successfully completed for the competition to begin.

“We are extremely happy to be hosting this fantastic tournament. I would like to thank our colleagues from Fifa, who have worked hard with the Local Organising Committee to make this tournament a success,” he said.

“We are ready. All our preparatory work is complete. All that remains now is for me to wish all the competitors a successful tournament.”

The Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium is suitably decked out ready to get the competition underway. The official opening ceremony will take place between the two games.

The LOC said the ceremony will be a 15-minute spectacle that includes a laser show and fireworks that would “keep those in the stadium as well as those watching the live telecast enthralled”.

Rafael Salguero, chairman of the organising committee, said he was looking forward to seeing the show begin.

“My thanks go to the Local Organising Committee and all Fifa employees collectively involved in ensuring that all hurdles were successfully cleared during the preparation stage,” he said. “The UAE have already hosted Fifa tournaments here with great success in the past, so I am sure that this U17 World Cup will also be a successful tournament in every respect. We hope to see full stadiums and great enthusiasm at every venue.”

Salguero stressed the importance of this age-group tournament, saying it provided a boon to aspiring young players’ development and prepared them for the big stage.

“We are ready to kick off a fantastic tournament that should serve as a springboard for the future stars of world football,” he said. “The U17 World Cup forms an important part of the pyramid of Fifa competitions and is crucial for the development of the young players taking part in this tournament.”

apassela@thenational.ae