x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dh20m earmarked for beach football

The UAE, which holds the Asian crown, hopes to develop one of the top four teams in the world.

Ali Hassan Karim, left, of the UAE beach football team, who currently hold the Asian title.
Ali Hassan Karim, left, of the UAE beach football team, who currently hold the Asian title.

When Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, signed the official ball for the upcoming beach football world championships - the only Adidas ball in history produced with Arabic script - it was one of what officials hoped would be many firsts in the sport's burgeoning culture here. The Dubai Sports Council, of which Sheikh Hamdan is the chairman, announced yesterday that it plans to use its Dh20 million (US$5.4m) budget to develop world-class facilities for the world beach football championships November 16.

The UAE will be the first Middle East and Arab country to host the event. With 16 national teams competing - among them the title-holders, Brazil - the competition will be fierce. But the UAE, which holds the Asian crown, hopes to develop one of the top four teams in the world. "We are the Asian champions, and I believe we can do well at the World Cup as well. Maybe we can win the title on home soil," Dr Ahmad al Sharif, the secretary general of the sports council, said last month. "If we can reach the semis, anything is possible."

The budget will finance the construction of a main stadium in which official matches will take place, as well as pitches for training and first-round games. Other facilities on the grounds will be announced with the master plan, the release date of which has not been given. The sports council entered into a partnership with the UAE Football Association recently, giving it the responsibility of organising local and international competitions in beach football, as well as sponsoring the UAE's national team.

A programme to develop beach football locally through organised competitions was announced in June. The sports council and the football association say the sport is becoming increasingly popular because it is inexpensive to play. jhume@thenational.ae