Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, president of the Football Association, has reiterated his support for the UAE national team and called on supporters to get behind the players as they bid to turn around their World Cup campaign.
The national team have made an inauspicious start to the final round of qualification and remain without a win from their opening four fixtures following Tuesday's 2-2 draw at home to Iraq.
UAE manager Bert van Marwijk has subsequently come under increased scrutiny, with the FA’s board of directors meeting on Monday to discuss the team’s campaign thus far.
With three draws and one defeat, the UAE sit fourth in Group A, five points off the automatic spots for Qatar 2022. On Tuesday night, a section of UAE supporters waited outside the Zabeel Stadium following the match to air their grievances towards the Van Marwijk and his team.
The draw, coming five days after the 1-0 defeat in Dubai to Iran, prompted speculation that the FA was considering dismissing Van Marwijk.
On Thursday, Sheikh Rashid praised the national team for their effort during qualification, citing the players’ “loyalty, commitment, discipline and keenness to achieve the aspirations of the Emirati football fans”.
Sheikh Rashid added: “They have given a lot to Emirati football and are still working hard and striving to achieve positive results in all the tournaments they participate in.
“Their failure in some matches does not give some people the right to criticise them in ways that contradict the values of Emirati society.”
Sheikh Rashid said that, while he appreciated the public's reaction to current results, that criticism should be constructive. He also asked fans to provide their support to raise the players’ morale ahead of the resumption of qualification next month.
Seeking to make a second World Cup in the country’s history, the UAE face South Korea away on November 11 before facing Lebanon away five days later.
Sheikh Rashid, who thanked those fans who continued to offer their backing, said the FA board of directors supports all national teams, especially the senior side.
Currently, Iran and South Korea occupy the top two positions in Group A, with 10 points and eight points, respectively. Lebanon are third, which could yet provide a route to next year’s global finals via a series of play-offs.
Van Marwijk, 69, is in his second stint with the UAE. He was reappointed last December, almost one year since his previous tenure lasted nine months.
On Tuesday, directly after the draw, the former Netherlands and Saudi Arabia manager was asked about the anger of the UAE supporters, and said: “But that’s also everywhere the same. You get always positive and negative sentiment. I cannot do anything with that. For me, I do it in my way. And if they don’t like it, they have to say it.”
Van Marwijk, who guided Saudi's qualification for the 2018 World Cup, insisted also that an incorrect decision from the Video Assistant Referee right at the death on Tuesday cost the UAE the win.
Pressed on the national team’s chances of turning around the final round to qualify for Qatar, he added: “The chances are exactly the same as before the game. Because Iran and Korea played a draw and we played a draw. Lebanon wins, but are not far away. So I think the chances are still the same.”