With the best 24 youth national teams about to pitch up in the UAE for the Fifa U-17 World Cup, we look at what sports fans can expect.
With matches taking place in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Al Ain, football fever is about to descend on the UAE. The world’s best under 17 footballers will battle it out for the Fifa U-17 World Cup, and competition is fierce. The tournament, which introduced the world to the likes of Ronaldinho and Alessandro del Piero, is expected to be a showcase of the hottest footballing talents in the world. And with Brazil, Nigeria and Italy appearing, we’re certainly excited. Kicking off on Thursday October 17, we’ve diligently rounded up all the essential information and catch up with the people involved.
The UAE team’s national coach and captain give us their take on the competition
UAE Under-17 coach Rashid Amer
How have your preparations for the tournament been going and what made you decide to choose Spain as a training base?
The boys have been training very hard. We will be back on October 9 from our training camp in Spain and will look forward to our opening match against Honduras on October 17. We chose Spain as our last training camp so the team can play against some of the biggest international teams, such as Mexico. It is helpful for the UAE U-17s to play against as many countries as possible to learn an opposing side’s techniques.
Apart from Brazil, who do you think is the main threat in your group?
As a team we are prepared to face any of the qualifiers. No doubt the match against Brazil will be a challenging one but it will also be a great experience for the players, so we are ready for it. Our focus is currently on our match against Honduras. We would like to kick off this tournament on a positive note.
Which country do you think is favourite to win this year’s tournament?
The World Cup at this age group is always surprising and you can never rely on the teams’ history or reputation to predict victory. Some of the biggest names in football such as Germany, England and Spain haven’t made it to this year’s tournament, which says a lot about the teams who did.
What do you think are the main strengths of your team?
Playing on home soil is going to be our biggest advantage over the other teams during the tournament. Fan support in the stadium will definitely give the players a massive boost.
Are you excited or nervous about your first match?
I know everyone has been talking about our match with Brazil — which is an important match, yet Honduras is a big football powerhouse in Latin America and this game might determine how the rest of the group
stage matches will progress.
UAE U-17 captain Humaid Salmeen
Are you nervous about your opening match against Honduras on October 17?
Of course! But I’m still excited. We have been training hard but you can never really get over the pre-tournament jitters.
You beat Slovakia in a friendly football match back in August. Was that an important victory for your team ahead of the tournament?
Yes, it definitely was. Even though these friendlies can be massively different to an actual match during a tournament against the same team, it was still great to win that friendly.
Which players in your team should the opposition be afraid of?
That’s a good question! I would say me. At least I hope I can scare off some of the opponents during the competition. We are all very prepared for the Fifa U-17 World Cup so there isn’t a specific player that I would point out as ‘one to fear’ this tournament. What I will say is that all the teams will have to watch out for us though this month – we won’t be taking it easy.
Do you watch Spanish or English football and if so what teams do you like?
I breathe football so I watch both and I am a fan of Chelsea Football Club in particular.
What does it feel like to be chosen to play in a tournament representing your own country?
It’s an indescribable feeling and an amazing opportunity. I hope we don’t let anyone down at this tournament. We are also very much hoping to make it to the very end!