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Al Mazmi: I want to take UAE past the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup group stage


Dubai: Mohamed Bashir Al Mazmi is not one to balk at a challenge. In recent years, the United Arab Emirates beach soccer coach has proven he can overcome difficulties, both on and off the pitch. He led the country to two consecutive editions of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and earlier this year overcame COVID-19.

Last May, Al Mazmi announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 after coming in contact with someone who had the virus. The up-and-coming coach had to self-isolate for more than two weeks until he recovered and resumed normal life.

After his self-isolation was over, FIFA.com chatted with Al Mazmi about this difficult experience and how he overcame the virus. He also spoke about his aspirations to take the UAE to the Beach Soccer World Cup in Russia next year.

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"It was a really difficult period," said the 39-year-old. "By drawing strength from God, being patient, and exercising during this period, I managed to get through this time."

Asked about the lessons he had learned from this difficult experience and how it could help him in his coaching career, Al Mazmi said: "I’ve realised that circumstances change and that doing physical exercise and maintaining one’s health are very important. No matter how things change, we have to show patience and perseverance.”

While Al Mazmi had been directly affected by the coronavirus, he is hopeful that the global pandemic will not majorly affect his team’s preparations.

"As we all know, the pandemic has negatively impacted all sectors, not only sports," he said. "As for beach soccer, I don’t think the pandemic will affect our team because we’ve an excellent group of players. What we need right now is to have training sessions and play games.

"I hope we can start preparing for upcoming tournaments while complying with public health measures, so that we can get through this stage, come back stronger and avoid the negative repercussions of this pandemic."

Al Mazmi joined the UAE coaching staff as an assistant to the Brazilian Gustavo ‘Guga’ Zloccowick, only to be offered the top job after his predecessor failed to qualify the team for Portugal 2015.

Al Mazmi certainly lived up to expectations, guiding UAE to the Finals of the AFC Beach Soccer Championship in 2017 and 2019 and securing a spot at two consecutive World Cups, despite the difficulties he had encountered.

2019 Highlights

"We made the final of the AFC Beach Soccer Championship twice in a row, and qualified for those World Cups, where we produced some very good performances and managed to defeat big teams,” said the former defender who took part in the global tournament three times as a player.

"I have to admit that we always face difficulties because our opponents at the World Cup have their own local tournaments and leagues and play many international matches, which is something our team lacks. These are very important factors that can help us progress to the latter stages of tournaments."

Having exited from the group stage at Bahamas 2017 and Paraguay 2019, Al Mazmi, who will turn 40 at the end of this month, hopes to reach the AFC Beach Soccer Championship final again and win the title, before achieving his dream of going past the group stage at the Beach Soccer World Cup.

"I’ve gained a lot of experience from the World Cup," he said. "I played in three editions then led my national team there as a coach. I’ve learned a lot and I now want to win the Asian title and go beyond the group stage at the World Cup. Let’s hope it’ll be third time lucky for us."

Sources: FIFA.com, AFC

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