x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

UAE Under 17 World Cup diary: Thursday, October 17

Abdullah Al Shaheen, the UAE assistant coach, will be speaking to The National during the tournament. This is his second diary entry.

Abdullah Al Shaheen, the UAE assistant coach, will be speaking to The National during the tournament. This is his second diary entry.

The last training sessions for today’s match have gone smoothly. On Saturday we trained at Zayed Sport City’s main stadium, and then we moved on to night sessions at Emirates Palace’s lawn on Sunday and Monday, and Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday. For our last training session last night we went back to Zayed Sport City but this time on the side pitches.

Sadly, we have lost Ali Ghuloum to a knee injury which might need surgery, but apart from that the players are fit and their spirits are high. They are ready, and are eager to show the UAE in the best possible light. Physically, technically and mentally we have prepared them well.

Of course, any opening match is difficult. Many of these youngsters may not have played in front of big crowds and will not be used to the media attention. But it is the same for both sides and we have worked with our boys on this side of things too.

The UAE’s (2015 Asian Cup qualifying) 4-0 win against Hong Kong on Tuesday has inspired our youngsters even more. The seniors are role models for us and all the other age groups.

Coach Mahdi Ali even came to see and speak to our players before we flew out to the training camp in Spain last month. It was a great gesture and his advice was very welcome. We thank him and the UAE Football Association, who continue to do anything that will raise morale and improve our chances of success.

Finally, a message to our fans. We have said all along they are our No 1 player, not No 12. We saw their presence even in Hong Kong. They need no invitation here and I am confident they will be behind us at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium today and for the rest of the competition.