The Socceroos were welcomed to the emirate’s entertainment hub of Yas Island and the team’s hotel, the iconic, five-star Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi – the only hotel in the world to straddle a Formula One track - by mascots from Yas Island’s award-winning theme park aqua park Yas Waterworld.
Yas Waterworld’s adventure-seeking heroine Dana brought along her mischievous little brother Sultan to turn on the Arabian charm and greet Socceroos star Tim Cahill and his team mates.
The team from Down Under is in Abu Dhabi to play against the UAE on October 10th at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, home of Al-Jazira Sports Club, with the game serving as excellent preparation for both teams for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup, which Australia is hosting in January, 2015.
“We’re expecting a tough game against one of the strongest teams in Asia at present,” said Socceroos star man Cahill, who plays for the New York Red Bulls in the MLS. “In terms of our preparations for the AFC Asian Cup, this match will be a valuable exercise.
“We hope to go very far in January, particularly with the AFC Asian Cup being played on home soil. If we are to be successful then, teams like UAE are among those that we’ll need to beat, so in that sense, it’s crucial that we make the most of the occasion on Friday.”
And after meeting the friendly characters from Yas Waterworld, Cahill was keen make plans to return to the emirate after the crucial encounter against the UAE was over.
“Abu Dhabi is an amazing place and we’re very lucky to be staying at such a unique hotel on Yas Island,” he said. “Of course, we are here as a team to prepare for a match, but on the occasions that we have been in transit around Abu Dhabi, it is obvious that there is lots to do around the city. It looks to be a place that would be nice to return to with my family one day.”
The game, which is free of charge and will kick-off at 6:30pm, is expected to attract fans from all across the Emirates to the UAE capital, with Australian Ambassador to the UAE and Qatar, HE Pablo Kang saying anticipation of the game is mounting.
“I am excited to watch the Socceroos take on the UAE side, as are many of the 16,000 Australians residing in the UAE,” he said. “The game will be a good pre-cursor to the Asian Football Cup. The UAE and many other countries from the region will also participate in the AFC and we look forward to welcoming them to our sunny shores.”
Kate Campbell, Sales and Marketing director at du Forum, Yas Island and a fervent footie fan originally from New South Wales, is also looking forward to seeing her country’s sporting prowess up close-and-personal.
"I’m super excited to see the Socceroos play in Abu Dhabi,” she said. “I really hope all of the Aussies in the UAE come out to support them. I have family visiting from Sydney so it will be a great opportunity for them to see the team play abroad, especially as we are all huge Socceroos fans!”
The Australian team, ranked 84th in world football governing body FIFA’s rankings, 11 places below the UAE, come into the game off the back of an impressive World Cup campaign earlier this year, where the team performed heroically in a tough group containing Spain, Chile and the Netherlands, before being knocked out in the group stages.
The Socceroos vs the UAE is being supported by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, in co-ordination with Yas Island. For more information regarding the Socceroos head to http://www.socceroos.com.au/.