Dubai: The UAE’s quest for certain medals took a hit after at least two of their bowling team members were forced pull out of the squad travelling for next week’s Fifth Asian Indoor Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Jamal Al Banna, Vice President of the Emirates Bowling Association (EBA) said that the UAE will be unable to send its full strength squad for the bowling competition at the Games because an employer and an educational institution did not release the players to represent the country.
“It is a tough situation to be in for any one. Any country will want its best players for a competition. We too chose the best to represent the UAE for the Ashgabat Games. But then at least two of the four chosen players cannot make the trip,” Al Banna told Gulf News at the UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC) headquarters on Monday.
The EBA had initially selected Shaker Ali, Hussain Al Suwaidi, Mahmoud Al Attar and Khamis Al Shamsi to make the trip for the Games from September 17-27 in the former Soviet Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan.
However, Al Suwaidi was not given leave by his employers, while Al Shamsi was not granted permission to miss classes by his university. The EBA had to work quickly and bring in replacements with Mohammad Al Marzouqi and Basil Zioudi occupying the two vacant spots.
“If you had asked me about our chances for medals six months back I would have confidently told you we can bring home at least two to three gold medals. But now, and with all due respect to new players, I doubt I can show the same confidence,” Al Banna remarked.
The bowlers may have to deal with another stumbling block, should the organisers of the Games refrain from accepting their last-minute entries for participation. “All efforts are being made by the UAE NOC to make the necessary replacement of players, and I am sure they will do so in due course,” he added.
Naif Oqab, one of the UAE’s best bowlers, has been ill for the past few months. “He’s on his way to recovery and we wish him well,” Al Banna said.
This aside, the EBA official was still looking with a glimmer of hope. “We have two champion bowlers in the form of Shaker [Ali] and Mahmoud [Al Attar], but on the other hand we have two relatively inexperienced youngsters. It will be tough in the teams’ competition, but I think we have the ability to do well in the singles and doubles,” Al Banna remarked.
Bowlers from the UAE have been consistent performers at the continental level with Mohammad Al Qubaisi and Faraj Al Merri among the first winners with a bronze at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games. Shaker Ali took silver in the singles at the 2002 Busan Asiad, while the UAE won two silvers and a bronze at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
The bowling competition in Ashgabat gets under way with the men’s and women’s singles preliminaries on September 21. “Bowlers from the UAE have always done well on the Asian stage and we hope we can return with medals this time as well,” he hoped.