Success of UAE football team is a source of pride

Skill, teamwork and the support of their fans have taken the players to new heights

(Top L to R) United Arab Emirates' forward Ali Mabkhout, United Arab Emirates' defender Mohamed Ahmed, United Arab Emirates' defender Walid Abbas, United Arab Emirates' midfielder Majed Hassan, United Arab Emirates' defender Ismail Ahmed, United Arab Emirates' defender Fares Al Saadi, (bottom) United Arab Emirates' defender Bandar Al Ahbabi, United Arab Emirates' midfielder Ali Salmeen, United Arab Emirates' goalkeeper Khalid Eisa Mohamed, United Arab Emirates' midfielder Ismail Al Hamadi and United Arab Emirates' forward Ismaeil Al Junaibi pose for a group picture during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarter-final football match between UAE and Australia at Hazaa bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain on January 25, 2019.  / AFP / Giuseppe CACACE
Powered by automated translation

Guided by a national dedication to excellence, UAE football has matured in time with the country itself and risen to prominence on the global stage. After a storming run in this year’s Asian Cup, held here in the UAE, the home team will tomorrow night meet Qatar, hoping to book a place in the final for the first time since 1966.

A packed stadium will cheer the players on, while thousands will watch in homes and cafes nationwide. Now, it’s time to throw all our support behind them.

After emerging from their group in first place, the UAE saw off Kyrgyzstan and reigning champions Australia. Although the Socceroos appeared to dominate, a never-say-die attitude drove the UAE to a hard-fought 1-0 victory. A successful team relies on individual flair, teamwork and committed fans – all attributes the UAE clearly has to spare.

The squad’s success has been built on a vital combination of experience and young blood. Meanwhile, players such as Ali Mabkhout – who seized on an Australian error to score the decisive goal on Friday – and Club World Cup hero goalkeeper Khalid Eisa, have distinguished themselves as key members of a solid side.

With the home advantage, the UAE has a good chance of lifting the Asian Cup trophy this year, a prospect that has only boosted the passionate support the team enjoys from Emiratis and residents alike. Hundreds queued for hours on Sunday, as 18,000 free semi-final tickets were handed out.

Reports that some of those tickets have ended up online, being sold for thousands of dirhams, stands in stark contrast to the generous spirit in which they were given. This is, after all, a time for unity, not the pursuit of personal profit.

Still, that development – however disappointing it may be – will not dent the excitement surrounding this pivotal game. Skill, dedication and teamwork have taken the UAE to new heights, but our "golden boys" might not have come so far without their fans. Tomorrow night, the nation will cross its fingers. Whatever the outcome, the UAE's footballers have made us all proud.