Dubai: Brazilian Fabio De Lima may become the third foreign footballer to be granted UAE citizenship by the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) in the near future.
Earlier this week, the FA, through its official website, announced that citizenship had been accorded to Al Wahda’s Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue, along with Al Ain’s Brazilian attacking midfielder Caio Canedo.
The FA website has already altered the nationality of both players to Emirati in all official communication as both South American footballers have duly fulfilled the international criteria of having played in the UAE for the mandatory five years at a stretch without getting a call-up for their respective national teams.
Both Tagliabue and Canedo will now be up for selection to the national football squad whose next assignment will be their qualifying match for the 2022 Fifa World Cup Qatar at home against Malaysia on March 26 before further encounters against Indonesia (March 31), Thailand (June 4) and Vietnam (June 9).
Exactly a year back, the UAE had reached the semi-final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup before falling to eventual champions Qatar under Alberto Zaccheroni. But they have had a modest start to their qualifying campaign as they lie fourth with six points after four matches in Group G.
After losses to Thailand and Vietnam, the UAE suffered a group stage exit at the Gulf Cup in December with losses to Iraq and Qatar while Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk parted company after just nine months with the national side.
The entry of high-quality players such as Tagliabue and Canedo will give van Marwijk’s replacement Ivan Jovanovic better options, especially in attack as he prepares a team to win the next four matches and confirm the UAE’s entry into the final stages of the qualifiers.
Tagliabue, who will turn 35 next month, has been with Al Wahda since he first signed with The Clarets in 2013. The soft-spoken Argentine scored 29 times in as many matches in his debut season. Since then, he has netted at an amazing rate of nearly one goal per match in his 115 appearances for the team from the UAE capital.
Brazilian Canedo came to Al Wasl on loan at the start of the 2014 season and scored 16 goals in 22 appearances. But after four seasons, the 28-year-old signed for Al Ain at the start of the current season.
The World Cup will be played in Qatar between November 21 and December 18 and it is learnt that the UAE FA are also keen to obtain the services of Brazilian De Lima, who has been with Al Wasl since he came to the country in 2014.