x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Maradona predicts ‘big future’ for UAE national team

Diego Maradona praises Omar Abdulrahman and the UAE national team and declares his support for the side from his "second home".

Diego Maradona at his introduction as Dubai's Honorary Ambassador of Sports in July. Kamran Jebreili / AP
Diego Maradona at his introduction as Dubai's Honorary Ambassador of Sports in July. Kamran Jebreili / AP

Having declared the UAE to be his “second home”, Diego Maradona has pledged his support for Mahdi Ali’s Emirati side after watching them qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia by beating Hong Kong 4-0 at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

The Argentine, who shared player of the century honours with Pele, believes that the quality of the players in the squad as well as the recent run of results makes them one of the top contenders to win the 2015 Cup.

“I was very impressed with Omar Abdulrahman’s skills, and cheered when he scored the third goal because he’s a player who makes it look easy,” Maradona told the Football Association. “He has no problems scoring, not to mention the amount of chances that he creates for his teammates. He plays a big role for the team. I congratulate him on his skills and call on him to keep it up.”

He had praise for the whole of the side, too.

“I predict a big future for this team,” he said. “They have proved themselves and I’m very happy with their standard. The important thing is that they continue this improvement, and keep raising their expectations so they can achieve even more.”

Maradona has lived in Dubai since the summer of 2011, when he arrived to coach Al Wasl.

He was seen smiling and signing autographs at the end of the Friday match, and he said his presence in Abu Dhabi was due to his support for the Emirati side.

“I believe in this team, I trust this team, and I will remain loyal to them by attending all their matches,” the ambassador for Dubai Sports Council said. “I have met [UAE Football Association President] Yousuf Al Serkal and pledged my total support for the team, and for Emirati football in general.”

Maradona also revealed his strength of feeling for the country as a whole, and not just its football scene.

“The UAE is my second home, and my support of for the team is symbol of my loyalty to this welcoming and generous country,” he said.

“Football here is heading in the right direction, and the senior team is advancing steadily on the world stage. Ambitions should not stop at the Asian Cup but extend to reaching the 2018 World Cup, because this generation of players has the talent to achieve this.”

akhaled@thenational.ae

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