Dubai: The President of the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) has reiterated that the hosting of the Fifa U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 will raise the level of grassroots football in the country.
“This is not just about organising a competition, but about ensuring the development and continuity of our ambitions at the junior stages,” Yousuf Al Sarkal, President, UAE FA told Gulf News at the official mascot launch ceremony for the tournament at the Burj Al Arab hotel on Monday.
The mascot named “Shakran”, a blonde falcon, was unveiled later in the presence of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) led by Al Sarkal and Dr Ahmad Sa’ad Al Sharif, General Secretary, Dubai Sports Council (DSC).
UAE and Al Ain star Omar Abdul Rahman was later unveiled as the Brand Ambassador of the Fifa U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
“Even though the senior team has been a priority for us, we have always ensured the continuity of junior players getting promotion into the higher teams based on their performance. At the moment we have at least six to eight players from the current under-17 batch who would be entering the under-19 national side,” Al Sarkal noted.
“Football is about teamwork. It’s not about individual performers and I hope we can have a few stars like Omar [Abdul Rahman] and Esmail Mattar coming through from this competition.”
With only Ghana competing with the UAE to stage football’s third most important international event [after the Fifa World Cup and the Junior World Cup], the 15th edition of this tournament is scheduled to be played at six venues: Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah and Al Ain.
Abdul Rahman said he was confident the event would act as a catalyst for football change in the country.
“Hopefully we will be able to meet the expectations of the world by hosting such a huge tournament. I am convinced football at the grassroots will only get better as we prepare,” the Al Ain star told media.
Tournament Director Mohammad Abdullah Bin Bdoua sounded a similar note. “Falcons are a potent symbol of our nation and represent great strength and determination, two qualities present in all 24 teams who have qualified for this tournament,” Bin Bdoua said.
A total of 52 matches will be played across the six venues, with the final being staged at Al Jazira’s Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium on November 8.
Tickets for the tournament go on sale next month.
For more information and the latest tournament news, please visit www.fifa.com/u17worldcup.