Ahmed Al Kamali defends Alia Saeed's Asian Games outing and calls to widen selection net
The head of the UAE’s athletics federation has defended the performance of Alia Saeed at the Asian Games, and sought to widen the net to accommodate more non-citizens to represent the country in the near future.
Saeed, an Ethiopian-born distance runner who in 2010 switched allegiance to the UAE, won the gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the 2014 Asiad in Incheon, South Korea. Unfortunately, she placed only fourth in Jakarta last week.
Ahmed Al Kamali, president of the UAE Athletics Federation, congratulated Saeed for her performance.
Speaking from the Indonesian capital on Wednesday, he focused on the bigger problem, which was the lack of availability of world-class athletic talent in the country.
“Hats off to Alia for finishing fourth even though we had high expectations for her to win us a medal again,” Al Kamali said. “She came very close. If I had 47 naturalised athletes, I would have won medals in each discipline."
He said he supported a Presidential decree issued last year to allow children of Emirati women married to foreigners, residents and expatriate children born in the country to be drafted into national teams.
“The core problem of athletics in the country is the scarcity of talents,” Al Kamali said. “Without talent you can’t win medals at this level.
“When you have only one naturalised athlete, then you are vulnerable. But if you have naturalised players in all disciplines, then you will have more opportunities of winning medals."
Al Kamali said his federation "will register any number of athletes in our bid to identify new talent".
"In this regard, we have already approached the General Sports Authority and they have asked us to submit the proposal," he said.
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After the decree was declared last November, the Federal National Council in April approved regulations and conditions which were drafted by the GSA.
The UAE are enjoying their best Asian Games campaign, having accumulated 12 medals - including three golds, six silvers and three bronze so far. But none of them have come from track and field.
Al Kamali also pointed to budget problems.
"Athletics in Asia has greatly evolved and [it has] become very difficult to win medals," he said.
"Our federation gets only Dh500,000 budget, which is not sufficient to prepare athletes, both men and women of different ages and categories, throughout the year."