By Paul Nicholson
July 13 – The United Arab Emirates Football Association (UAE FA) has taken a prominent, and welcomed, role in reinforcing Asian unity and opening channels of communication with the completion of a ‘virtual retreat’ this weekend.
Organised under the leadership of the new UAE FA president Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, the online forum brought together representatives of the clubs, referees, coaches, players and the media.
Also present were AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa who was supported with a cameo role by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
In 2019 the UAE hosted the expanded 24-team Asian Cup with considerable success despite the backdrop of political conflict in the region with the Saudi Arabian-led and UAE-supported blockade of Qatar.
Football also had its own regional political undercurrent during those championships with a UAE candidate having announced his running for the AFC presidency against Shaikh Salman. Eventually the UAE candidate withdrew and Salman was returned for a second four-year term.
Those day now seem a long way in the past as Salman went out of his way to emphasise the spirit of partnership between the AFC and the UAE FA, stressing that it was as strong and solid as ever at all levels, particularly with the UAE’s representation in the AFC Standing Committees.
“I hail the UAE FA’s initiative to organise this retreat, which represents a platform to share the ideas and plans with official and political organisations, to develop the future of the game, and I stress that such meetings can be a bridge to develop the partnership between UAE FA and other parties,” said Salman.
Addressing AFC issues, Salman outlined the work done to reorganise the AFC’s calendar and get competitions safely back on, as well as initiatives to develop club licensing and improve the stability and professionalism of AFC clubs.
“We made sure that the Financial Assistance Programme remain unaffected for Member Associations during the pandemic, as the AFAP payments were done immediately, to ensure all staff members and other contractual payments were carried out without delay and we will continue the infrastructure projects under the AFC President’s Initiative,” said Salman.
“The AFC technical department has several projects aimed at developing coaches, grassroots and women’s football. While at the management level, we also held a workshop for General Secretaries from our West Asia Member Associations last week, to share best practices and experiences, and to strengthen the partnership between AFC and West Asia MAs.
“In refereeing, we continue to build on the momentum of our achievements and successes in the recent years, which include the record number of Asian referees in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the launch of the AFC Referee Academy, which is the first among all Confederations.
“In general, all our projects and plans have been put in place to ensure Asian football continues to be global leaders of the game, which requires the support and commitment of the AFC MAs.
“The AFC is only as strong as our Members, and we are committed to strengthening our partnership with our MAs to grow together as one Asian football family.
“During the last few years, we have worked tirelessly to engage with our MAs in the decision making process, through their representatives in the Congress or in the Executive Committee as well as our Standing Committees and this partnership continues as we seek to further support our MAs through the different projects.
“The AFC’s initiatives require the continuous support from our MAs in order for all of us to fulfil our ambitions and we are dedicated towards enhancing the capabilities and strengthening the day-to-day running of our MAs.”
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