It was 9am, on the 18th of January 2013, when I walked in Dubai Airport’s Terminal 3 where I saw nothing but Kandoras and Abbayas (the UAE national dress for men & women respectively). The 18th of January is a day for every Emirati to be proud of his country, because the UAE national football team has made it to the final match in the Gulf Cup’s 21st edition and was going to play against Iraq. You could feel the excitement and energy from the minute you entered Dubai’s Airport. The support the UAE rulers have shown is not surprising as they are always and forever there for their people. The UAE Football Association and rulers from all the 7 Emirates have organized more than 27 flights to see the final match of the Gulf Cup– The Gulf Cup’s 21st edition was hosted in The Kingdom of Bahrain-. Everyone was able to register his name and get a chance to see the match free of cost once they received the confirmation message from the UAE Football Association.
The UAE Football Association has played a major role in moving the UAE football fans to Bahrain and ensuring the process was safe and efficient in Dubai Airport, Bahrain Airport, and at the stadium. However the process wasn’t as efficient as hoped to be since one of the major issues was that UAE Football Association and Emirates Airlines were not cooperating together that well. An example would be that the UAE Football Association would say you are registered to watch the match, but Emirates Airlines wouldn’t find your name registered in their booking system. This was the case to hundreds of match goers; chaos, screams, and tension were all you could see and hear in the airport. Airplanes that were supposed to board at a certain time were delayed 4 hours with no clear justification.
The flights have to go up in the air at some point and they eventually did, that’s when half the struggle was over. Arriving at Bahrain was easy and fast, however, because of the many flight delays, we were told we couldn’t get into the stadium because it can’t take any more people. Frustration filled the air with the thousands of the UAE fans outside the stadium. We had to try our luck, and I myself did not get on a delayed plane just to be told that I cannot watch this match. My friends and I were one of the lucky ones when a Bahraini representative we had a conversation with hooked us up with awesome seats. As the match started we saw more and more people getting in. The Bahraini representatives have done a great job at managing to get the thousands of fans that were stranded outside into the stadium. However, not everyone had patience, and so many gave up and went to watch the match at cafés.
The energy during the match was beyond exciting; we started off with scoring the first goal, however we really thought we lost it when at the 72nd minute Iraq scored a goal. Finally the game ended with 2-1 for us and the UAE became the champion of the 21st Gulf Cup. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium, tears of happiness and pride were seen everywhere, it was surreal. The people of Bahrain came out to support the UAE team, which was truly wonderful. Going back to the airport, you would see Saudis, Kuwaitis, Omanis, and many more out on the streets holding the UAE flag. Bahrainis came out of their houses to the streets to congratulate all the UAE nationals celebrating on the streets.
I think all the airport delays and mishaps we went through didn’t matter to anyone once we won and got the Cup. The people of Bahrain have done a beautiful job at hosting this edition of the Gulf Cup and the UAE national football team showed us that they are here to make their country proud no matter what.