Football friendlies against England and Italy on the UAE's to-do list

The Football Association hopes to schedule two 'big' friendly matches each year for the national team, writes John McAuley.

Italy, who won third place at the Confederations Cup, could be one of UAE's opponents in the not-too-distant future.
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DUBAI // The Football Association hopes to schedule two "big" friendly matches each year for the national team, a top official said yesterday, with discussions with England and Italy already in progress.

That topic will be one of several on the agenda at the inaugural end-of-season FA congress to be held on Saturday at the Intercontinental Hotel in Festival City.

The congress will include presentations from committees working under the FA umbrella, as well as input from the Pro League Committee, the country's professional clubs and the media.

The UAE's senior side have rarely played non-Asia competition; one of their more recent encounters with a prominent European side was with the Czech Republic in 2009.

"We hope to find … high-level teams to play," said Yousef Abdullah, the FA's general secretary. "We are ready to play friendly games with them here, or even there."

The FA's general assembly – to discuss with the clubs regulations for next season – will also form part of the congress, but the emphasis will be on resolving a number of issues, such as striking a balance between national team commitments and scheduling for the Arabian Gulf League, and increased investment in grass-roots football.

"Many international federations have this type of congress to discuss and negotiate everything to improve and advance their work," Abdullah said."In only five years as a professional league, there's been a lot of investment – in the national team, grass roots, legal department, the referees, competitions and marketing – but still nobody knows about the details of the activities.

"We want clubs, the media, and everybody involved in football to know there's a lot of work going on daily within the FA to improving UAE football. We'll look at the best practices to achieve that."

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