Time Frame: United they stand

Don't be fooled by the bowler hat and the sombreros – these are Al Abyad – the fantatical supporters of the UAE football team.

Then, as now, the Whites are heading to the final stages of the Gulf Cup, being held in Bahrain for the first time since 1998, when this photograph was taken.

The 1998 tournament finals were conducted in a round-robin format, with the UAE finishing in third place, behind Saudia Arabia and the eventual winners, Kuwait.

Since then, the Cup has been held six times, most famously – in these parts anyway – in 2007, when Al Abyad took the title at home in Abu Dhabi, resulting in prolonged scenes of national rejoicing.

The current champions are Kuwait, historically the most sucessful of all the Gulf national sides, but UAE hopes are high after defeating the hosts on their home turf on Tuesday night to reach the semifinals on January 15.

Yallah Ya Abyad!

* James Langton

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