'Soc' it to 'em UAE

As the UAE football team gear to meet Japan in the Asian Games finals today, we bring you a taste of their moment of glory

By Hisham Al Gizouli

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Thu 25 Nov 2010, 8:52 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:03 PM

They did it. We were worried they were running out of minutes but they stuck to their guns and they did it. It was splendid. It was super soccer and it was the stuff that legends are made of. You lie in bed at night and you dream that.

The last kick of the match in every sense of the word and the UAE rewrote football history at the Asian Games. Come Thursday, a whole nation, Emirati or expat, will wait for the clock to hit 3 p.m. for the finals against Japan and the gold medal up for grabs.

If they did it once, they can do it again. Miracles do happen twice.

So far it is all incredible. These guys have already won our hearts and our support and are winners by far.

Into extra time, the underdogs, not given a chance, the seconds dying on the stopwatch, ten, nine, eight… and then, that great, awesome history making move and courtesy centre forward Ahmed Al Abry the ball was in the goal and the whistle blew.

A nation roared its approval and we are ready for today.

This match is the weekend’s top billing and all over the emirates plans are being made on where to watch the game and cheer the boys on.

You don’t have to be a football fan to catch the fever. Bring it on and get together with friends, go to the hotels where top football clubs have their favourite watering holes from Arsenal’s Spirals or Liverpool’s Underground where the Premier League followers gather to watch good football. Try the Spurs’ meeting place at Waxy O’Connors or Chelsea’s Sibber Magees or just about anywhere from Double Decker to Goodfellas or, even better, get a rich friend with a huge screen and bring the gang together for ninety minutes plus of mind-numbing soccer.

But, as the day dawns and Destiny awaits let’s talk of the hero of the hour, the man with the magic touch. Who is he, was this his daydream, can he ever beat that ‘last gasp’ sensation as the ball went past the goalkeeper and the whistle blew?

Glory calls

Al Abri was born in Abu Dhabi on January 28, 1990. At the age of 12, he joined Al Wahda’s training school where he impressed one and all with his talent. He was closely watched and sculpted for this moment of glory.

When he was 16, Al Abri was spotted by the UAE junior national team coach and short-listed for the squad. In 2007, Ali made his first international appearance and helped the team win the U-17 Gulf Cup in Abha, Saudi Arabia. A very quiet person, almost self effacing, he let’s the game do his talking for him. Popular with his team mates, soccer is obviously his passion and he practices hard and long.

Al Abri was later called for the U-18 squad by the national coach Jumaa Rabie and the team went on to win the 2008 AFC U-19 Cup.

In the next year, the same squad carried the country’s hopes in the 2009 Egypt Fifa U-20 World Cup. UAE was drawn in Group F and the Boys In White arrived at the Mediterranean city of Alexandria to face South Africa, Hungary and Honduras.

By that time, Al Abri was returning from a long layoff due to injury and the UAE coach Mahdi Ali opted to keep him in the reserve bench in the opener against South Africa.

UAE went 0-2 down to the Bafana Bafana and with less than six minutes remaining the coach sent him in. Al Abri lived up to the expectations of his coach and won a penalty for his side when he was brought down inside the box. UAE skipper Hamdan Al Kamali scored from the spot and the deficit was reduced to 1-2 in the 90th minute of the game. And with less than 30 seconds remaining out of the injury time, Ali operated from the left flank and sent a perfect cross to Zeyab Awana who headed home the equaliser and restored the UAE’s hopes in the competition. So he has his share of knuckle biting finishes.

After being kept by Wahda’s Austrian coach Josef Hickersberger in the reserve bench for the whole season, Al Abri was forced to look for a new club. He eventually signed for Bani Yas Sports Club to reunite with his youth and Olympic teammates Zeyab Awana and Amer Abdul Rahman.

More news from