x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Withdrawals hamper UAE coach's plans for Arab Cup of Nations

FA official urges those who are available to 'do their best', with eight players, including Majed Naser and Hassan Abdulrahman, making themselves unavailable. Audio interview

Abdullah Misfir, the UAE interim nation team coach, has been forced to contend with eight players withdrawing from his squad to contest the Arab Cup of Nations, which starts on June 22. Mike Young / The National
Abdullah Misfir, the UAE interim nation team coach, has been forced to contend with eight players withdrawing from his squad to contest the Arab Cup of Nations, which starts on June 22. Mike Young / The National

Eight players have made themselves unavailable for a depleted UAE squad for next month's revamped Arab Cup of Nations in Saudi Arabia.

The national team were already missing several key players who are in the Olympic squad preparing for the London Games. Now Abdullah Misfir, the interim coach, has had to rush in replacements for a training camp in Turkey from Saturday until June 17.

Basheer Saeed, the centre-back who moved to Al Ahli from Al Wahda during the January transfer window, has said he wants to stay beside his ill father while seven others have given various reasons to opt out of the squad.

They are the goalkeepers Majed Naser, Salim Abdullah and Dawoud Sulaiman, the defenders Juma Abdulla, Khalid Sabeal and Abdulla Qasim, and the midfielders Hassan Abdulrahman and Essa Obaid.

Misfir reinforced the squad by including Obaid Al Taweela and Abdulla Moosa, the goalkeepers from Al Nasr and Al Ahli. Helal Saeed Ahmed of Nasr, and Al Ain's Khaled Abdulrahman will fill in defence, while Sultan Al Ghaferi and Adnan Hussain, both from Baniyas, Al Jazira's Sultan Bargash and Al Ain's Abdulaziz Fayez, come in as midfielders.

A spokesman for the Football Association acknowledged Misfir would be travelling with a depleted squad but insisted it provided an opportunity for fringe players to take advantage.

"Some players have decided to miss this tour for personal reasons but on the other hand it opens an opportunity to others," he said.

"Most of the players have just concluded a busy domestic season and may have to attend to their own personal matters. We have excused them as we also need players who will be focused on their football.

"We will also miss a majority of the key players as they are preparing for the Olympic Games. I think we just need to go there and do our best."

He said they had no complaints on the timing of a tournament which is being revived after more than 10 years.

"This is the only window available in an otherwise packed calendar for all the participating teams. It is still better to play and get this tournament going, and hopefully it can find a better time of the year in the future," he said.

Eisa Ahmed, the Al Wahda defender, said: "The coach pointed out at the meeting that we will travel with some new players and he too believed they have will have something to prove now that they have got this opportunity.

"I think we should have confidence in ourselves to achieve our objectives. Gone are the days when we thought teams like Egypt, Morocco and Libya, who play in the African Cup of Nations and now in this competition, were superior.

"We also don't have any complaints on the timing of the tournament. We have played over the summer months and we can adapt. For me, I am looking forward for it."

The UAE are drawn with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Palestine in Group A of the tournament, which runs from June 22 to July 2.

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