(From left) Mohammad Al Kamali, Shaikh Ahmad Mohammad Hasher Al Maktoum, Yousuf Al Serkal, and Saeed Abdul Gaffar Hussain, during a press conference conducted by the National Olympic Committee at the Raffles Hotel in Dubai. The final squad of athletes for the Asian Games includes 20 members of the football team and 14 athletes. Image Credit: AHMED RAMZAN/Gulf News

Dubai: A contingent of 95 athletes from 17 sports disciplines will represent the UAE at next month's Guangzhou Asian Games in China.

"We have selected some of the best sportspersons from the UAE to carry the flag for our country in China," Saeed Abdul Gaffar Hussain, Secretary General, UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC) told Gulf News yesterday. "These will be our ambassadors in China and hopefully they will rise to the occasion and give of their best for self and for their country," he added.

The UAE NOC had convened a meeting of all associations who will be sending athletes to the Asian Games to be held in China's southern province of Guangzhou from November 12 to 27.

"Anyone who competes does so with the medals in mind. So definitely we will be looking at improving on our position that we got in Doha 2006," Hussain said.

The final squad of athletes has been kept at 95, and this includes 20 members of the national football team while the second highest will be the squad of athletes at 14 members. "In addition, we will have another 60 members who will be the officials and support staff at the Games," Hussain said.

"Our goal has always been to strive for excellence in any sphere, and I am confident that these athletes will keep the UAE flag flying high," he added.

In Doha 2006, the UAE bagged ten medals, including three golds, four silver and three bronze medals bettering their previous record of three medals they won at the Busan Asian Games in 2002.

Footballers to leave early

The UAE started competing at the Asian Games from 1994 where they won four medals including one silver. In 1998, they returned with just one bronze, and improved to four medals, including two silver medals at the Busan Games in 2002.

The football squad is expected to depart for China a week in advance to participate in the preliminary rounds of the competition. "We think we have a team of youngsters who can contest for the gold medal in football," Hussain said.

Also hopeful of medals is the athletic squad of 14 members, including two girls. "These athletes have proved what they are capable of at the recent West Asian Games in Aleppo [Syria]," said UAE Athletic Association President Ahmad Al Kamali.