President of the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) Marwan Bin Ghalita has admitted that players need to play abroad if the national team is going to improve.
His comments followed the resignation of UAE coach Mahdi Ali this week after The Whites’ 2018 World Cup qualifying hopes were severely hampered by a 2-0 defeat away to Australia on Tuesday.
The size of the UAE’s player pool, with not enough new talent coming through, and the lack of overseas experience of players, with all of them plying their trade in the UAE domestic league, were cited as the two main reasons for failure.
“If we are going to develop, the next step is to provide the opportunity for external professionalism of players in the Olympic [Under-23] team,” said Bin Ghalita, in reference to players in the age-group below the current senior national team squad.
“I have followed the Olympic team and I am afraid that the players are not getting a game with their clubs.”
UAE clubs have traditionally been against allowing their players to play abroad because they are scared of losing talent from an already small domestic player pool. But hoarding talent has only made it harder for new talent to get a game.
With government plans to roll back their financial support of local clubs in a step to make all teams self-sufficient by 2021 however, clubs may not only be unable to pay players the sort of money that dissuades them from going to Europe, but might also be forced to sell to generate revenue.
Bin Ghalita also stressed that Mahdi Ali had been given full support, despite a change in the UAE FA boardroom, with presidential elections held midway through the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Some analysts have criticised the timing of the elections — which saw Bin Ghalita replace Yousuf Al Sarkal as president last April — as being detrimental to the national team’s progress in World Cup qualifiers. But Bin Ghalita defended: “The current technical and administrative staff were present before and gave us enough opportunity for Mahdi Ali.
“We in the UAE FA provided all the needs to the team and completed the work that our brothers who preceded us had started to ensure we preserve the gains.”
Former Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic and ex Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella are among the frontrunners to replace Mahdi Ali.
Others include Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu and former Al Ain boss Zlatko Dalic, with Al Wahda coach Javier Aguirre, Al Jazira boss Henk ten Cate and former Al Jazira coach Abel Braga also mentioned.
The UAE are currently fourth in their World Cup qualifying group four points behind Australia with three games remaining. Only the top two go through automatically while the third placed team goes into a cross continental play-off.
By Ashley Hammond
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