Axel Hellmann: "Our interests in Abu Dhabi are long-term"
At a press conference in Abu Dhabi, Eintracht Frankfurt board member Axel Hellmann stressed that the club’s activities in the region have a long-term vision, while Karl-Heinz 'Charly' Körbel and Lothar Matthäus flew the flag for the Bundesliga.
At Tuesday's press conference at the Hotel Emirates Palace, the main location of the Eintracht first team's training camps since 2013, board member Hellmann welcomed Marcus Ulander (Eintracht's representative in the Abu Dhabi) and Robert Klein (CEO of Bundesliga International) onto the stage as well as two very special guests: Matthäus and Körbel. Together with Eintracht brand ambassador Uwe Bein, there were 1,366 Bundesliga appearances in the room between the three former players (Körbel 602, Matthäus 464, Bein 300), a number that impressed the assembled press and showed the importance of the Bundesliga in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Hellmann started by explaining the importance of the UAE for Eintracht: "We have partnerships here which extend beyond the first team," he said. "As a well-established Bundesliga club, we want to drive our commitment here forward with the help of Bundesliga International and our partners Al Maskari Holding and Daman, who support our football school. In a sporting sense, there's a lot we can do here and a lot we can develop. The UAE is a country that holds lots of major sporting events and Abu Dhabi has many economic links to Frankfurt. Our interests here are long-term; we want to make a lasting impact."
At the forefront of that is the establishment of a permanent football academy as well as holding training camps for the first team – "when time permits," said Hellman. "It's the perfect place to prepare for the second half of the season. We can also play friendlies against top-class teams here."
Körbel is currently with his four-man team from the Eintracht Frankfurt football academy in Abu Dhabi. "If someone had told us five years ago that we'd have this sort of success here, I wouldn't have believed it," he said. "We've worked with girls' teams and disabled teams here, which were great experiences. Abu Dhabi has become our second home, but we can still do more."
The Eintracht legend also remarked on the Bundesliga’s growing presence in the UAE compared to five years ago. Klein highlighted the importance of the Bundesliga on the world stage: "We're a global brand. We have a wonderful product that we want to take out into the world."