Elec­tric at­mos­phere

It was not the re­sult the UAE wanted, but the fans were on top form writes Ma­hak Man­nan

7 Days in Dubai - - NEWS -

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

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