I must have been around 5 years old when I first wondered why a bunch of grown men would yell at a television. Besides it being ear piercingly loud, there were accusations in abundance and as a child, I was intimidated by the raucous. Bearing refuge in my uncle’s lap, I realized I got my first taste of the kind of hysteria football brings to the world. That hysteria had reached its climax when Khalid Ismael scored the UAE’s only goal against the mighty West Germany in the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. Even though that game ended with the UAE losing 5-1, that was the UAE’s first introduction on the world stage and that moment represented our highest honors in the sport.
It took 23 years bringing us here today, to witness this moment again. In those 23 years, we sliced and diced, hired the best of coaches, and under the envious eyes of other sports, invested a lot of resources into our football regime. To the dismay of many fans, we ran into a dead end and experienced many disappointments.
Somewhere along in those 23 years, a few good men in the background, away from the pressure of the spotlight, decided to go back to the drawing board and began crafting the blueprints of what will become today the fruits of long term planning and embedding confidence in the national capability available in this country.
Over the duration of the past Gulf Cup 21st edition, the UAE has been undergoing fan fever of scorching temperatures never witnessed before leading up to 40 planes carrying 10,000 fans to the Kingdom of Bahrain for the final game of the tournament. The growing enthusiasm behind this football team has been flourishing ever since 2008, when the lions of this national team were just cubs, earning their place among the pride by enjoying their first kill in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) by winning the under 19’s Asian Cup. And for every pride, there is a leader, coach Mahdi Ali. The coach has been leading his troops since 2008 earning his first stripes starting from Dammam (in KSA) and achieving many victories along the way until this stage.
The team being together from their adolescence, weathering the journey as a union had its benefits that were visible in the team through their discipline, sacrifice and synergy. We must applaud Mahdi Ali for creating a steady dock to harbor team dynamics that only rewards collectiveness and humbleness and we must be proud because we found this guidance in our own country’s men.
Immediately after the game, the national team was informed that they will be received at home upon arrival by the president of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The moment of pride that these players will experience as ambassadors of this nation as they walk to greet our country’s leader is the moment that we should let our children watch. We should ingrain the roots of belief that in this world if you work hard and with dedication, you will reap what you sow.
What we should take from this experience as a nation is that the UAE football team is like any other organization in the country, with proper and patient long term planning, the results earned will be much more monumental and will solidify the bar higher for other generations to surpass. As we lived for the past 25 years never imagining that the world cup generation will be replaced, we can finally say that we have finally surpassed our bar by saying goodbye to our fear of grown men yelling at a television and opened our arms for the future as the golden generation has finally arrived.
Khalifa was born and raised in the UAE, with a 4 and bit years university stint in the Canadian lands, before coming back home to work for one of the investment arms of the Abu Dhabi government. Inspired to be the Ray Romano of the magazine, only as a sports journalist that is.
Khalifa believes the world of sports never gets the credit it deserves for its impact on this world. For some, its mere entertainment, but for some its soul therapy and sometimes, survival. In this sports universe, deep in its pockets, he was able to find a lot of pleasure reading for sports journalists like Phil Ball, Gabriel Marcotti, among many others. Considering some of his favorite literature comes from sports writers, he will use this column titled “Tifosi”, which stands for “fan” in Italian, to share this passion with others by discussing sport events that can relate to both fanatics and non fanatics.
Latest posts by Khalifa Al Hajeri (see all)
- A Sports Fan In A Sport City - March 1, 2015
- Moving Towards Individualistic Sports - February 1, 2014
- The Impact of Hosting Major International Sports Events - January 1, 2014