Ali Mabkhout of UAE
Ali Mabkhout in training Image Credit: UAE FA

The UAE Football Association (UAE FA) has kicked on as it has approved 80 per cent stadium capacity for the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Iran and Iraq as the Qatar 2022 picture shapes up.

In perfect timing with the cooler weather, the UAE government has cleared the way for an almost-full stadium when the UAE take on Iran on Thursday.

The UAE FA greenlighted increased capacity for the international matches to 80 per cent — previously at 60 per cent — right in time of the double-header against Iran and Iraq.

Additionally, more local games will be permitting more fans under the new directive. The fan attendance was at 60 per cent previously but now the stadiums can heave as the UAE cheer their team on. The Adnoc Pro League, First Division, women’s and beach soccer tournaments will all also permit more fans.

The UAE FA announcement comes ahead of the national team’s do-or-die clashes in the Qatar 2022 third-round qualifiers against Iran on Thursday in Dubai and then Iraq on October 12. Both games will be held at the Zabeel Stadium in the heart of the city of Dubai. The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority have approved the increase in capacity for both games, while adhering to all protocols and safe-distancing standards.

Every fan will need to prove they have had a third vaccine through their Al Hosn app — all vaccines must be UAE approved.

Fans must also have a PCR test inside 48 hours of the match. Masks must also be worn during the game.

The UAE clashes with Iran and Iraq mean the Adnoc Pro League is on a break and will not resume until October 21. Al Ain are in top spot, just ahead of champions Al Jazira, with Sharjah lurking in third position.

In Qatar 2022 World Cup contention, the UAE are currently third in the third round of qualifying. A roller-coaster second round saw the UAE make it into final qualifying in a group that also includes Iraq, Iran, South Korea, Syria and Lebanon. Two frustrating draws against Syria and Lebanon leaves the UAE behind Iran and South Korea, but a win — and with Ali Mabkhout in form — over Iran will see the men in white in a great position.

They could then can fancy their chances to book a spot at the World Cup — something they have only managed once before in their history back at Italia 90.

Iran currently lead the standings on six points, ahead of South Korea on four points.

The UAE FA also announced that they will carry Expo 2020 Dubai logos on their shirts after signing a partnership deal with the event.