Sheikh Khalifa rewards UAE Olympic footballers
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, yesterday awarded Dh500,000 "in appreciation" to each player on the UAE football team, which qualified to play in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, according to WAM, the government news agency.
Sheikh Khalifa received the players, as well as technical and management staff, at Dhiyafa Palace in the capital.
Also receiving the players and staff were Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed, the President's Representative, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Ruler's Representative in the Western Region.
The UAE team qualified for the Olympics with a 3-2 victory over Uzbekistan in Tashkent on March 14.
The Emiratis trailed 2-0 in the second half before two goals by Ahmed Khalil and a third by Haboush Saleh won the game.
The football team's appearance in the Summer Games will be the first by the UAE, and is the most significant achievement by Emirati footballers since 1990, when the UAE played in the Fifa World Cup.
Sheikh Khalifa urged the players to represent the UAE well in the London Olympics and said that the UAE is keen to promote sports and good sportsmanship.
"Good sports nurtures the brain and brings up an aware generation that puts the reputation of his country and people first," Sheikh Khalifa said, according to WAM.
The players and officials "expressed their gratitude" to the President, according to WAM, and "pledged to exert their efforts to honour the country" at London 2012.
Mutaz Abdulla, the Al Wahda goalkeeper and a former member of the UAE senior national team, told The National: "It's normal for players to be rewarded for their accomplishments and they fully deserve it.
"It's a custom in the country that you achieve something, and you are rewarded.
"This age-group team has been winning a lot of trophies that previously the UAE has not won, and it is to encourage them to do more."
Kefah Al Kaabi, a television and radio football analyst, said: "Sheikh Khalifa is very generous always. The players accomplished a very difficult mission, and they did not just draw the match, they won the match in dramatic fashion.
"Whether it is Dh500,000 or Dh1 million, it doesn't make a difference because you go to Europe and that's nothing for professionals," Al Kaabi added.
"But it is a gift from the highest man in the country and it has a value, and not just in terms of money.
"It means that we believe you will be something in the future, not just in the Olympic team but also in the national team, and many of these players will come into the senior team.
"It is a sign of appreciation for those young players." The National