UAE beach soccer captain Waleed Mohammed has sent an impassioned plea to the country’s Football Association after the Emirates failed to qualify for the knockout stages of a World Cup for a record sixth successive time.
A 3-1 defeat to Senegal on Tuesday night rendered Sunday’s surprise win over two-time world champions Russia worthless as the Whites lost their all-or-nothing final group game for a second successive tournament.
No country has appeared at a Beach Soccer World Cup more often without reaching the latter stages. The United States and Solomon Islands have both failed to reach the knockout stage in five previous attempts.
Waleed was unequivocal when asked what has to happen next to ensure the UAE are better prepared to meet their objectives at the next global showpiece, in Moscow in 2021.
“To be honest, the problem is if you look only at the results we are close, but if you look at the sport in the UAE, we are nowhere near,” he said on the side of the field at Los Pynandi World Cup Stadium in Asuncion.
“This should be a message to the UAE Federation: You have a good team, but you should have a reserve team too, more local games, more leagues … Let’s work on this because we have tried everything else.
"We have tried all the resources we have and it is still not working. Six times now we come here and six times we fail to get out the group. That means there is a big problem.”
Waleed said his side should have beaten Senegal after dominating possession for much of the match and hitting the woodwork three times.
In the final period though and having conceded after an error in midfield, the Whites panicked in search of an equaliser, became sloppy in their play, and ultimately paid the price. With more experience it could have been avoided, according to Waleed.
“We have to work more and invest more in developing beach soccer,” he said. “The eight teams that will play the quarter-finals, they are mostly professional and have their own league. We don’t have a league or a season – we have nothing. This is not an excuse, but with more infrastructure we will have more games, more players, more experience.
"Just now we have only three competitions at international level and the rest of the time we don’t play. We need a local tournament.”
If the league does not come to the UAE, the UAE’s players could try to go to a foreign league. Senegalese goalkeeper Al Seyni Ndiaye plays his domestic football in Germany with Real Munster and said the experience gained from playing overseas has helped him develop.
“I am lucky to play in Germany and that was always my goal – to play in one of the big leagues in Europe,” he said. “It has helped me a lot and I think, when your local league is not so strong, it is essential to go play elsewhere.”
Captain Waleed played in China a few years ago, while goalkeeper Mohamed Al Jasmi and the Beshr twins, Ahmed and Waleed, played in Hungary with Siofoki Banyasz as recently as 2017. Having returned to the Emirates though, all 12 of the UAE players in Paraguay this month are hoje-based with the majority on the books of Al Ahli or Al Nasr.
“When I played in China, it was only me,” said Waleed. “Then we had players in Hungary too, but teams like Senegal, Russia, Belarus, they all play in tournaments and leagues across Europe. They play something like 50 games per year while we play less than 10. If we do not have a league in the UAE, we have to send players outside. Maybe this is the solution.”
Bader Hareb, head of the Emirates delegation, said such infrastructural changes have been discussed at a senior boardroom level. “We will go home and try to develop a team and a league,” he said. “That is what we must do. We know that.
"We have lots of players in the country so now we must give them somewhere to play. We will create more and achieve more than this next time. This is our promise.”