UAE agree to host Group A World Cup qualifiers in Sharjah

The FA decided to stage the matches only after consultation with the relevant authorities in the UAE

China's Wu Xinghan fights for the ball during the 2022 World Cup football qualifier against Guam in Suzhou. AFP
China's Wu Xinghan fights for the ball during the 2022 World Cup football qualifier against Guam in Suzhou. AFP

The UAE will host the remaining Group A World Cup qualifiers after China requested they be transferred because of reported Covid-19 infections among two of the teams competing.

The Asian Football Confederation confirmed on Tuesday that the seven outstanding matches will be moved to Sharjah following detailed discussions with the Football Association on Monday. The FA decided to stage the matches only after consultation with the relevant authorities in the UAE.

AFC general secretary Windsor John, said: “These are indeed unprecedented times for everyone, and, on behalf of the AFC, I would like to thank the UAE FA for agreeing to host the Group A matches of the Asian Qualifiers.

“The UAE FA’s commitment to host the matches within such a short lead time is testament to their spirit of understanding and organisational excellence, and we are confident that they will provide the best possible environment for our teams and players.

“The AFC outlined its desire to ensure the safe and successful resumption of the Asian Qualifiers and we are determined to deliver on our plans, keeping in mind the highest health protocols, for the benefit of all our participating teams, players, fans and key stakeholders.”

The qualifiers, originally set for the eastern city of Suzhou, had to be relocated after the Chinese Football Association reported that two of their Group A rivals, Maldives and Syria, had positive Covid-19 results in their respective camps. The second round of qualification, repeatedly postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, has been moved to centralised venues.

Group A was to resume on Thursday, but the matches will now be rescheduled after discussions with the participating teams and mandatory quarantine measures. Sharjah Stadium will provide the venue.

China are second in the standings, five points off Syria. They still have to play Maldives, Philippines and Syria. Guam, bottom of the standings, make up the group.

Mohammed Hazzam Al Dhaheri, the FA general secretary, said: “The United Arab Emirates Football Association is delighted to host the Group A matches of the Asian Qualifiers in the spirit of Asian unity and solidarity.

“We have demonstrated with the hosting of more than 14 national teams’ camps and international friendly matches in preparations for the World Cup qualifiers, the advanced football infrastructure in the United Arab Emirates.

“In addition, the AFC Champions League [West] in Sharjah [in April] showcased the capabilities of the UAE in staging world-class competitions. We look forward to welcoming the participating teams and being the only country in Asia to hosts two groups of the Asian qualifiers.”

Group G, which features the UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, is set to resume on Thursday in Dubai.

Updated: June 1, 2021 02:50 PM

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