Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and Rafael Salguero address the media in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Shaikh Nahyan clarified that no free tickets had been given away. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Both world football’s governing body Fifa and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) confirmed that all preparations have been completed for the finals of the Under-17 World Cup, which kicks off at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium here on Thursday.

Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development and Chairman of the LOC; Rafael Salguero, Chairman of the Fifa Organising Committee; Inaki Alvarez, Fifa Deputy Director of Competitions; Mohammad Bin Bdoua, Tournament Director; and Monika Huser, Head Fifa Media Officer, attended a press conference at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to confirm the completion of preparations on and off the field.

“I thank all the members of the LOC, Fifa and all those who helped us to complete our preparations to host a successful event. I am also grateful for Fifa members who worked with us during the past period in our quest to achieve a new organising success for our country,” Shaikh Nahyan said.

“I am pleased to confirm that all preparations have finished to host the finals. Wishing the best of luck to all the teams and a comfortable stay to our guests.”

Shaikh Nahyan and Bin Bdoua also clarified that no free tickets had been given away. “We, in the LOC, have no free tickets but there are some local companies and sponsors who bought tickets and will distribute them to supporters at the gates of the stadium on match days free — so in fact they are not free tickets as we have sold them.”

Salguero thanked Shaikh Nahyan and the members of the LOC for the preparations made by the UAE to host the event in accordance with the standards and conditions Fifa had mandated. “Now I can confirm that we are ready for kick-off and that I expect great success for the event. We, in Fifa, are pleased to be again in the UAE and I am confident that together we will achieve great success and we would appreciate the help of the media to attract the fans to attend the matches.

“This competition is very important to Fifa because it represents the future of world football. Everything is prepared to help achieve total success on and off the field and we are sure that the UAE will once again achieve success as they did in the past Fifa championships they organised.”

Regarding the cases of possible over-age players being involved in the tournament, Salguero said: “We in Fifa are very keen to avoid such cases. We make tests of all the players before the finals and, upon arriving at the host country, we take four players randomly from each team and conduct age tests on them. This is the responsibility of the Fifa Medical Committee and they have their successful methods to disclose such cases of fraud.”

Shaikh Nahyan also touched on the problem of TV broadcasting as the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Sports have exclusive rights for the tournament. “We in the LOC cannot do anything in that respect because they have already bought the rights.”

The championship trophy was displayed during the conference before being collected by a bodyguard and a Fifa official to be taken to the location where it will be kept until the final on November 8, when it will presented to the winners at the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium.