Spectators will be able to attend this month’s Group G World Cup qualifiers in Dubai, including all four of the UAE’s matches.
The Football Association confirmed the news on Tuesday following detailed discussions with both the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority and the Crisis and Disaster Management Team in Dubai.
The qualifiers, which begin on Thursday at the Zabeel Stadium and Al Maktoum Stadium, will be capped at 30 per cent capacity, and open to fans who are fully vaccinated.
Those attending must also present a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours of the day of the match.
The UAE’s four matches are slated for Zabeel Stadium. The eight games represent the outstanding fixtures from Group G in the second round of qualification, which has been postponed repeatedly because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A limited number of fans were permitted to attend last month’s President’s Cup final, marking the first time since February last year that spectators were able to watch live a professional football match in the country.
The FA said the smooth running of that event acted as a platform for fans to return for the qualifiers. The matches take place from Thursday until June 15.
"It's a very big boost for the FA and the national team," Mohammed Hazzam Al Dhaheri, the FA general secretary, told The National. "It's the moment and the time for fans and spectators to be behind the national team. Everyone today, from the players, to the technical staff, to the FA, are heavily wanting this to happen. They want the fans back in the stadiums.
“We have daily requests from fans – social media, emails, phone calls to the FA – asking whether they can come or not to the qualifiers. And the confirmation shows that, after the experience in the President’s Cup final in which everything went well and without issue, we are ready to host fans again in our competitions. And it came back again today with our national team.”
Currently fourth in the standings, the UAE are five points off leaders Vietnam, although they have a game in hand over the other four teams in the group.
After facing second-placed Malaysia on Thursday, Bert van Marwijk’s men meet Thailand on June 7, then bottom team Indonesia four days later. They round off their campaign against Vietnam on June 15.
Only the group winners are guaranteed to progress to the third and final round of qualification, alongside the four best runners-up from the eight pools. The UAE have only once previously qualified for a World Cup, in 1990.
Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, president of the FA, welcomed the return of spectators for the qualifiers, while calling on fans to adhere to the precautionary measures and follow official instructions to maintain everybody’s safety.
Sheikh Rashid said: “The UAE Football Association is keen to create the best conditions for the success of [the Group G] matches. All amenities, training stadiums, matches, means of transportation, communication, health and security are available in the country.
“The UAE has achieved unparalleled success in combating the coronavirus and has taken the lead in vaccinations and preventive activities, as well as in the awareness of the Emirati community and residents of this good land.
“The Football Association signed agreements with health authorities and institutions in the UAE to oversee the implementation of the health protocol to preserve the safety of all delegations and individuals. I am proud of the substantial support provided by the wise leadership for sports and athletes, which makes the UAE become the capital of international sport with all its specialties."
The FA announced also on Tuesday that Group A would take place this month in the UAE. Originally set for Suzhou, China, the group had to be relocated following reported Covid-19 infections among the Maldives and Syria camps. Its seven matches, involving China, Syria, Maldives, the Philippines and Guam, will now be staged at Sharjah Stadium.
UAE 2022 World Cup fixtures (Dubai)
Thursday, June 3 v Malaysia, 8.45pm
Monday, June 7 v Thailand, 8.45pm
Friday, June 11 v Indonesia, 8.45pm
Tuesday, June 15 v Vietnam, 8.45pm