UAE Olympic team turns to alpine training for uphill task

UAE Olympic football team in Switzerland for five weeks as coach Mahdi Ali keen not to drive players into the ground after a busy season in run-up to London 2012.

The views are stunning, the air crisp and clean, the altitude beneficial for footballers preparing for the utmost exertion in an elite global competition in a few weeks' time.

This is the UAE Olympic football team in training for the London 2012 Olympics. They are spending nearly five weeks in the Alps before shifting to England on July 21, five days ahead of their July 26 opening match, against Uruguay at Old Trafford.

It may look rather like a dream vacation, but this is serious business.

"We are doing our best to provide the players with all means of comfort and readiness to prepare them for the challenge ahead," Mohammed Obaid Hammad, the team manager, told the FA website.

Under the direction of Mahdi Ali, the coach, the young Emiratis have been working through two training sessions, on most days, and now are in the midst of a stretch of seven friendly matches.

The technical staff have created an integrated plan to suit the players after a long season.

"The atmosphere here is positive, organised and encouraging," Amer Abdulrahman, the midfielder for Baniyas, told uaefa.ae.

"The programme which has been carefully tailored by Mahdi Ali made our job very easy. We had a very tough season back at home. Most of the players have joined their respective clubs in the local and continental competitions over and above the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and Olympic Games qualifiers.

"But the FA officials have taken all these facts into consideration and made us feel at our ease in Switzerland. The weather is fine and the surroundings are eye-catching in this beautiful place."

From June 17 through yesterday, the Olympic team were based in the Swiss resort town of Montana, population 2,400, located at 1,500 metres and renown for its "extreme pure air" according to local tourism officials. The city has five Fifa-approved pitches, and is often the destination for football clubs during their summer training sessions.

"Everything is perfect around here," said Saoud Saaed, the Al Wasl defender, in remarks to uaefa.ae.

"The arrangements are second to none and the surroundings are simply charming.

"The administrative and technical officials are making everything right to provide the utmost comfort in friendly circumstances for the players."

The team had one off day during their stay in Switzerland, and the players visited Geneva. Yesterday, the team relocated to Lienz, Austria, another Alpine town. This one is a city of around 12,000 at an altitude of about 700m, and is near the Italian border.

The Emiratis have five friendlies scheduled during the 18 days they will be in Austria, and as before the technical and medical staff will be watching them closely.

Dr Jalal Al Ghali, head of the medical staff, said the players must look after their health by going to bed early and taking their meals at the right time.

"They must also strictly adhere to the directives of the administrative and technical staff and consult the medical staff in the event of any injury however it's light or small," Dr Jalal told uaefa.ae.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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