Al Wasl back 'one of their own' as new FA president

Abdullah Hareb officially confirmed he plans to be a candidate in the elections for the president of the FA in May.

Abdullah Hareb, right, flanked by Marwan bin Bayat, the chairman of Al Wasl Football Company, announced his candidacy to run for president of the Football Association when elections take place on May 16. Courtesy Al Wasl
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DUBAI //Abdullah Hareb, the former chairman of Al Wasl, earlier today announced himself as the man to take football in this country to the next level after officially confirming he plans to be a candidate in the elections for the president of the Football Association (FA).

The representatives of affiliated clubs will vote on May 16 to choose the new president of the FA for the next four years. To date, there are two candidates in the fray - Hareb and Yousuf Al Serkal, the chief of the interim committee running the affairs of the FA.

The interim committee was installed in December after Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi resigned as president of the FA along with the other committee members after the national team's disappointing performance in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Al Serkal, the chief of the FA before Al Rumaithi came to power in 2008, returned to head the interim committee.

Al Serkal is also contesting for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation, but Hareb believes UAE football needs a chief who can devote himself exclusively to the sport here.

"I call on the clubs to be very careful in nominating their candidates and make sure these candidates are able to meet the high ambitions we have," Hareb said. "These candidates should also be able to give their full time to their job to be able to meet the objectives. That is one of my main priorities."

Hareb, 62, has been involved in sports for more than four decades, both as a player and administrator. He played football for Al Nasr, Al Wasl and Al Jazira and was later vice-chairman of the UAE and GCC Basketball Associations. He has also worked with the FA before, as secretary general, and was a member of the Arab FA.

Supporting Hareb's bid, Marwan bin Bayat, the chairman of Al Wasl Football Company, said: "We are very proud to have one of our own take an ambitious step forward in nominating himself for presidency. We wish him all the best in his campaign and trust that he will go on to lead and achieve, as he always has, taking the values of Al Wasl with him as he works to elevate the stature of UAE football to levels it deserves."

Hareb hopes his experience can help the UAE build on their qualification for the 2012 London Olympics and the gradual improvements in the Pro League. He has promised to back the progress on the field with a professional set-up at the FA.

Top of Hareb's plans is to encourage every club to open sports schools, where both Emirati and expatriate children could study and hone their skills at their favourite sports, which in turns, according to Hareb, could help increase number of fans who attend matches.

"First of all, we need to raise the level of our football to get more fans," he said. "I have made a few suggestions in my manifesto about increasing the number of fans, even by 50 or 60 per cent. One of the things that I have mentioned is opening academies at every club, for different sports, offering an academic programme alongside.

"These schools can be open to both the nationals and expatriates. It will be easier to attract these students to attend football matches and their parents will also come along with them. This is just one of the ways I mentioned in my manifesto through which we can increase the number of spectators."

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