Shaikh Khalifa on Saturday received the returned heroes, who on Friday won the 21st Gulf Cup title in Bahrain in a nail-biting 2-1 thriller that went into extra-time, at Al Rawdha Palace in Al Ain.
“The achievement made by the sons of the UAE at this big Gulf event swept the UAE with joy and renewed our continuous celebration of our achievements. It is an opportunity to show our solidarity and eternal love for this generous country,” the President said as he shook hands with the team members in the presence of Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President’s Representative.
The President also announced he would gift the team Dh50 million, while other similarly generous pledges came in from Rulers of other emirates.
Shaikh Khalifa said the evolution shown in the national team’s performances at regional and international championships clearly reflected the development achieved in the country’s other spheres.
He also called on the team to produce more successes, urging the champions on to bag yet more achievements which would reflect the growth and development the UAE has achieved.
“Achievements cannot be made out of nothing. Rather, they are made through diligent work, patience and self-belief and, above all, through love to the country, as we all walk the same path and seek to make our state and its pride the ultimate and highest goal,” he told the team.
Shaikh Khalifa said sport had become a high priority for the country, as sporting achievements reflected the country’s growth, evolution and prosperity across the board. “Championships, results and hoisting the country’s flag high is not possible without diligence, dedication, love to the country, efforts as well as the realisation of the potential being harnessed. This was achieved last night and we want it repeated at future championships.”
Shaikh Khalifa also had a message for the public, saying that national sports and sportspeople were the face of the UAE to the rest of the world and it was the duty of the entire country to do whatever necessary to develop their abilities so that even more athletes would hoist the country’s flag high at all regional and international sporting events.
He also hailed the high morale and efforts of the national team, which allowed it to win the 21st Gulf Cup Football Tournament, and the efforts of technical and management team led by coach Mahdi Ali to harness all the capabilities of the youth to claim the title.
In response, the team pledged to Shaikh Khalifa they would continue their march towards more titles at future championships as a show of loyalty to their country and the leadership which had provided all necessary support to help the team win.
Meanwhile, the UAE Football Association has dedicated the Gulf Cup title to the leadership and the people of the UAE and the fans of the team.
UAEFA president Yousef Al Serkal said the dedication was in recognition of the huge support from the country to the team, with the devoted fans contributing to reaching the remarkable achievement.
“Although this win is earned by the UAE, it is Pan-Gulf (Khaliji) for me, and people’s of other Gulf nations too have the right to celebrate it with us. I thank the people of the UAE and fans who have strong belief in the players’ abilities,” Al Serkal said as he lifted the trophy at the National Stadium in Manama on Friday night.
Team coach Mahdi Ali could not have been prouder.
“I am proud of being the first national coach to lead the UAE to claim their Gulf Cup title, for the second time ever, and for the first time abroad. I am extremely happy that I am the first Emirati to lead our team to this victory. It is really wonderful.”
This is the UAE’s second title in the regional championship, six years after their first win.
(With inputs from agencies)
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