It was not the result the UAE wanted, but the fans were on top form writes Mahak Mannan
My experience of watching live football games has been limited to club games or friendlies here in the emirates – so the opportunity to watch the big World Cup qualifying match between the UAE and Australia was one I could not miss.
As I was heading to Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium I was expecting it to be the same as those club games – how wrong would I be.
It felt like the entire country had turned up to support the UAE. More than 40,000 people were there well before kickoff and I have never seen the stadium that packed.
I got to sit with some of the Australian fans, who were outnumbered in a stadium that consisted of 90 per cent UAE supporters.
Right from kick-off to the last minute of the game, the UAE fans did not stop singing and cheering on their team. Just a couple of people on a goblet drum and one man with a microphone was all that was needed to keep the entire stadium entertained.
The first-half was very slow with the UAE only having one shot on target. It was safe to say the fans’ upbeat rhythms were more entertaining than the first 45 minutes.
For the Aussies in the crowd, those wearing the gold were quiet except for one man who kept chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi”. The UAE fans were the winners in terms of entertainment and every time a UAE player got the ball close to the six-yard box, the entire stadium would be on its toes.
For Australia fan Darren Hicks, 44, the game was a great chance to take his three sons to watch their country.
“This is the first time we are watching an international game, and the first seeing Australia play live, so we could not miss the chance,” he said.
Soon enough, as Tim Cahill came on and scored, they were jumping off their seats with hi-fives going around, a few jerseys came off too.
Despite going a goal down, the UAE fans cheered louder as they urged their side to find an equaliser. The chants would start from one side of the ground and travel around like a perfect echo.
It was not to be though as the game ended 1-0 to Australia and the UAE fans left the stadium evidently gutted. “Our team did not play well, not like the last match with Japan – if we played like that, we could have won,” said disappointed Emirati fan Malik Mohammed Ali Arbi, 40.
For me I was hoping for a UAE win too, mostly to experience the celebrations with blaring horns and excited fans on the roads after. But just like the final result, it was not meant to be.
PACKED HOUSE: The stands fill up before the UAE versus Australia match in Abu Dhabi
CHEERING THEIR TEAM: UAE and Australia supporters
WINNING GOAL: Tim Cahill scored the crucial strike