x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE Rulers make Gulf Cup heroes millionaires

In the past two days, Dh137 million has been donated to the national team in appreciation of their achievement.

The UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai,met the UAE National Football Team after they won the Gulf Cup in Bahrain. Wam
The UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai,met the UAE National Football Team after they won the Gulf Cup in Bahrain. Wam

DUBAI // The UAE's football heroes have become overnight millionaires after winning the Gulf Cup.

In the past two days, Dh137 million has been donated to the national team in appreciation of their achievement.

The squad won all its matches in the tournament in Bahrain, which culminated in a dramatic 2-1 extra-time victory over Iraq in the final.

Yousuf Abdullah, secretary general of the Football Association, said the funds would be an incentive for the team in future competitions.

"We've had great support from the Rulers, who have always supported the team," he said. "This will give the players the responsibility to do their best in future competitions."

The President, Sheikh Khalifa, was the first to reward the players, giving Dh50m to the team when he met them on Saturday.

His donation was followed by a grant of Dh12m from Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Saeed, the sons of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, the Minister of Finance and Dubai's Deputy Ruler.

Sheikha Hind bint Maktoum, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, donated Dh25m.

Yesterday, Sheikh Mohammed himself donated a further Dh50m.

The money will be shared among the players, coaches and technical staff. But the players do not have long to enjoy their success. They fly to Guangzhou, China, on January 28 to begin training for the 2015 Asian Cup qualifying campaign.

The UAE's first match is against Vietnam in Hanoi on February 6. The last time the two countries met, in the group stages of the 2007 competition, the UAE lost 2-0.

Mr Abdullah said the team was ready to take on the challenge of the next major tournament.

"They already finished one successful competition," he said. "They are young boys looking toward the future. I think they can beat Vietnam."

After the Asian Cup, qualifiers begin for the 2018 World Cup. "I think we have a good chance and enough time to build this team very well," Mr Abdullah said.

"There's a lot of investment in football, and this is helping the football federation to build a national team."

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said in a recent television interview that the Rulers had every faith in the team to compete at international level.

He said the players who make up the team were the "future of the nation".

"We know there's a long way to go", he said, "but we are confident in our sons."

mcroucher@thenational.ae