Shahnawaz Hakim Yousuf has witnessed Abu Dhabi's cricket infrastructure rise from makeshift sandy grounds to the spectacular Zayed Cricket stadium.
He has seen the skyline in Abu Dhabi change dramatically during his 46 years in the capital city. However, the time has come for him to return to his native Pakistan after retiring from his role as operations manager at Abu Dhabi Cricket.
Shahnawaz, 63, said his heart will always remain in Abu Dhabi even though he has to relocate to the country of his birth.
"I spent the best part of my life in Abu Dhabi and returning with bags and bags of good memories," he told The National as he prepares to leave in the next week or two.
“I will cherish the good memories of Abu Dhabi for the rest of my life. I was very fortunate to live my life around cricket. It was my passion from my childhood days.
“I have made lifelong friends in the sport, including international cricketers and cricket officials from my time at the Zayed Cricket stadium.
“From the time I started playing cricket as a kid, my dream was to work for a cricket establishment and involve myself with national teams and international players. I got that opportunity in Abu Dhabi.
“I haven’t been involved in a cricket World Cup and I wish the T20 World Cup comes to the UAE and Abu Dhabi will be kind enough to extend me an invite to come down and work for it. If that happens, I will have fulfilled all my dreams.”
Shahnawaz became the first full-time employee of Abu Dhabi Cricket Council (ADCC) in 2003 and worked tirelessly behind the scenes.
“This is the job I enjoyed most. It gave me so much joy and enjoyed the work as a new beginning every day,” he said.
“I’m now going into retirement with memories that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
“I have seen Abu Dhabi’s incredible change in terms of the skyline and development, and on the cricket front, I organised tournaments before the cricket council was founded.”
A new management under Abu Dhabi Cricket’s CEO Matt Boucher turned the area surrounding the Zayed Cricket stadium into a multiple sports complex including football, hockey, volleyball, tennis and netball.
“The area around the cricket stadium has turned into a hive of sporting activities,” Shahnawaz added.
“It is still developing, which is credit to Matt and his team. This was the original plan when the cricket stadium was built but it didn’t take off, aside from the construction of the two cricket Ovals.”
Boucher paid tribute to the man who served the cricketing community for over four decades.
“On behalf of the entire cricket community in Abu Dhabi – a community that Shahnawaz himself created – we are truly saddened to see him depart our cricketing shores,” the Englishman said.
“Shahnawaz is a true icon of cricket in Abu Dhabi. In his rich 46 years here he has created – and nurtured – the participation of a flourishing community.
“He has also developed the professional ambitions of Abu Dhabi, having supervised the hosting of over 150 international matches including the Indian Premier League, ICC qualification tournaments and the world's best international bilateral matches with the world's best teams.
“He has been an outstanding servant for cricket in Abu Dhabi and we wish him the very best for the future.”