2013 is certainly a good time to be a UAE football fan. The national team are living up to their tag as a ‘Golden Generation’; delivering glory to the nation with their Gulf Cup triumph before amassing an incredible 13 game unbeaten run in their march up the FIFA world rankings.
And it will soon be the under-17’s chance to prove to the world the future of UAE football is in safe hands when the Emirates host the FIFA under-17 World Cup later this year.
The under-17s will head into the tournament in good form after their recent Emirates International title and will have hopes of a good showing against the world’s finest teams.
Here the UAE under-17 coach Rashid Amir discusses the upcoming World Cup, what it means to be competing on home soil, and his hopes for tournament.
How do you view the opportunity to participate in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup this year?
This is simply one of the biggest tournaments worldwide, and it’s an honor for any player or coach to be part of such a big international event. Since this tournament is being organized on home soil, we have big ambitions to achieve results that will make the UAE proud.
Almost half of the field for the Under-17 World Cup is decided now. What are your thoughts on the results from the qualifying tournaments going on around the globe right now?
I think you’re seeing passion and willingness to give your full measure really rewarded, and that’s why teams like Sweden, Austria and Switzerland are right in the mix in Europe.
I believe the competition that arrives in the UAE will be strong. The field will be full of very good teams. The teams that are qualifying look to have some great players as well.
Top players come from all over the world these days, and it’s very likely some of the young footballers from these European teams or Mexico or Japan will be future stars at the club and senior World Cup level. Maybe the Sweden team will have the next (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic? Maybe Mexico will have the next (Javier) Hernandez? That’s part of what makes this event exciting.
What would you like to see the team accomplish in training over the next 6-7 months in the lead-up to the World Cup?
Our training has really been going on for a long period already. This team has been in preparation for four years, with the UAEFA doing a fantastic job of supporting us and providing opportunities to compete against top competition.
We have played almost 18 matches locally as well as big tournaments such as the AFC Championship and the Gulf Cup. These final few months are about continuing to work hard each practice and playing as a unit.
What do you think hosting a major international event like this means for UAE football?
It is an honor for any country to host such an international competition, and I think the UAE has the capability to deliver a great event. The infrastructure of UAE is as modern as almost any other nation in the world, and this country previously hosted the FIFA (Under-20) World Cup, which I think was a great success. This is another opportunity for the UAE to impress the football world.
How important will it be to have great fan support throughout the World Cup?
As we all know, fans take vital part in any tournament, and I believe no matter how big a tournament is it can never be successful without the support of its fans. When speaking about UAE fans, I am sure they will be strongly present to support their team during every match.
As I mentioned earlier, it is going to be a long journey in the U-17 world cup with more than 40 matches for the team to play, and this will surely motivate the fans to attend and support.
Also we saw how great numbers of fans went all the way to Bahrain to support the national team, so I am sure since this tournament is happening on home soil the support will be no less than that.
The UAE players have got talent and they have so much to offer in this tournament. This generation is the inheritors of a successful generation in football, and we hope to be up to our fans’ and supporters’ expectations, and represent our beloved country in best way possible.