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Fifa sees UAE going far with Under-17 World Cup

Expert team completes inspection of venues and seeks ways to get the public involved

Gulf News

Dubai: Fifa’s Deputy Director of Competitions Inaki Alvarez is confident the UAE will be in prime position to reap abundant benefits by hosting the Fifa World Under-17 World Cup in Dubai in less than two months’ time.

“It’s pretty much the same situation as in 2003 when the UAE organised the Fifa Youth World Cup. Over the past few years, we have all seen the benefits this country has reaped while winning the Gulf Cup on a couple of occasions and making their maiden appearance at the Olympic Games in London last year,” Alvarez told Gulf News at the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) premises in Dubai on Thursday.

Alvarez is part of the Fifa delegation inspecting the six venues scheduled to host the Fifa U-17 World Cup, which is being held in the UAE from October 17 to November 8. Besides the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi that will host a semi-final and final along with the UAE’s three group matches, another five stadiums in Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are being spruced up to match Fifa standards to host the competition.

“Such a tournament is about what it can do to raise the profile of football in the country. It’s about getting the youth excited, activated and involved to carry forward the message of football to future generations,” Alvarez remarked.

“We have witnessed what the current crop of players has achieved through their triumphs in the Gulf Cup and their appearance at the London Olympic Games last year. And now a tournament like the U-17 World Cup can reap similar benefits.”

The draw for the tournament will be held in the presence of team delegates from the 24 participating teams in Abu Dhabi on August 26. “We’ve got to be ready to host all the team delegates in another three days, and give them a feeling of oneness and solidarity as we head towards D-Day in exactly 55 days,” Alvarez said.

The UAE competition will miss some of the traditional ‘super-powers’ of football, including Spain, Germany, France and England but will feature other top European teams such as Austria, Croatia, Italy, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden.

Prominent South American teams such as Brazil and Argentina have qualified along with Uruguay and Venezuela, while Iran, Iraq, Japan and Uzbekistan will be representing Asia along with the hosts.

“Though the tournament is still quite some days away, we are already in operational mode. We will have the best 24 teams in the world in this age group and that’s exciting enough. We can now look forward to see how we can involve and get the UAE youth excited in this tournament and join us in the celebrations in creating a truly World Cup atmosphere,” Alvarez said.