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UAE slip into self-imposed exile

Squad landed in Manchester on Saturday

The UAE Olympics team during their training in Manchester
Image Credit: Courtesy: UAENOC
The UAE Olympics team during their training in Manchester.
Gulf News

London: The UAE football team has gone into a self-imposed yet temporary exile following its landing at Manchester late on Saturday.

The UAE media, who are based in London, were planning to make the trip to Manchester to interact with Mahdi Ali and his players. But the media was informed in the morning that the coach was not in favour of anyone either meeting members of the UAE squad or attending its training session.

“This is not a good time. From the looks of it, the coach [Mahdi Ali] does not seem to be too happy. Maybe he wants the players to relax and adjust to the conditions here,” a source present at Manchester airport told Gulf News.

“It is better that you allow the players to settle in and then the coach would be more in favour of entertaining members of the media,” he added.

The UAE squad of 18 players and four alternates landed in Manchester late on Saturday after six weeks of camping and training split into two: the first half in Crans-Montana, Switzerland and the second half in Leinz, Austria.

The squad proceeded directly to the Marriott Hotel in Manchester where they will be housed until their opening match against former two-time gold medal winners Uruguay on July 26.

During the run-up to their preparations, the UAE has had seven friendly matches, the last one on Thursday ending in a 4-2 win against New Zealand.

In their earlier six matches, the UAE won 2-1 against FC Sion and by a solitary goal over FC Vaslui before losing against Shahktar Donestsk 4-2. The UAE then thrashed a second string Hungary 5-0 before holding Gabon 1-1 and losing 1-2 to Honduras.

“A lot of effort has gone into the preparations of the UAE team and maybe the coach does not want to jeopardise anything by allowing his players to be distracted in any manner,” the source added.

The team was scheduled to have a training session at 4.30pm (UK time) with strict instructions from the coach to keep all visitors at bay. “It’s very close to the match. This is such a historic moment for the UAE and he may not want to take any chances. A couple of days rest will do them good and that would be a better time to meet the team,” he added.

The UAE open their campaign in Group A against Uruguay at Old Trafford on July 26 after which they take on the hosts Great Britain at Wembley on July 29 before their final group game in Coventry on August 1.

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