Regional connections

Egypt and the UAE share many close associations, but few can be closer than their ties over football

If England is the place where football was born, the sport has long since flown the nest. Brazil, hosting the World Cup for the second time, stakes a pretty good claim to be its home right now, but where in the Arab world is its regional hub?

As seven-times winners of the Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt rightly lays claim to that title. And, as The National reports today, the country has served as a prodigious exporter of the beautiful game, even helping to popularise the sport here: an influx of Egyptian expatriates in the 1950s and 1960s imported a love of Egypt’s two most prominent football clubs, Al Ahly and Zamalek SC. As too did some of the staff who worked for Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, Ruler of Dubai for 32 years from 1958 until 1990.

It is said Sheikh Rashid’s bodyguard watched Zamalek SC play during an official visit to Egypt in the 1960s and was so impressed by what he saw that he brought back a set of their football kits. By a circuitous route, Dubai’s Al Wasl team can trace its roots to that moment in history. Meanwhile, Al Ahli of Dubai, the current champions of UAE football, wear the same colours as Al Ahly of Cairo, the most successful club in the history of African football. Egypt and the UAE share many close associations – few closer than their ties over association football.

Published: June 24, 2014 04:00 AM