Three cheers for UAE

DUBAI - Never has a country waited in such anticipation. It’s indeed a historic occasion. A victory in the grand finale of the Asian Games under-23 football competition against powerhouse Japan would give UAE their first gold medal.

By Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2010, 11:48 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:33 AM

Well, doubts may have begun to creep into the minds of some. After all, Japan does have an enormous reputation. But those who witnessed the UAE lads’ triumph in the dying minutes of that epic semifinal against another Asian giant, South Korea, would definitely remain hopeful till the final whistle. They know the young guns of this emerging country would fight like gladiators against the Blue Samurais of Japan.

The fighting spirit that this bunch of gifted youngsters displayed against the speedy, skillful and organised South Koreans in the heart-stopping encounter in Guangzhou on Tuesday evening would have made many a champion proud. Well, this improvement has not been achieved overnight. The UAE under-20 and under-17 teams are among the best in the continent and they even reached the quarter-final stage of the 2009 World Youth Cup in Egypt.

The South Koreans were taken aback when they saw the calmness in the UAE defence which dealt with their relentless waves of attacks with considerable ease. It was an inspired performance. And their interplay in the final third while constructing that magnificent match-winning goal was simply sublime.

The Blue Samurais would be wary of an opponent who could play with or without the ball. Not many people are aware of the fact that Etisalat is playing a key role in developing the young talents. With the support of the UAE Football Association, Etisalat, one of the sponsors of European giants FC Barcelona, are working on a dream project.

Early this year, they invited Barcelona junior team’s coaches to Dubai to train UAE’s youngsters in a coaching camp. It was a huge success and the UAEFA made the most of that unique opportunity by introducing the UAE junior national team players to the legendary Barcelona football culture — a culture that inspires young players to play with vibrant imagination, a culture that has given birth to a phenomenon called Lionel Messi.

Well, the Koreans got the bitter taste of such imagination in that semifinal clash, a match which put UAE in the pantheon of Asia’s football superpowers. Now an entire country is awash with hope as the young lads get ready to play the match of their lives.

Can they do the last man standing thing? We don’t yet know, but those who saw them play know that they are more than capable of trading punches with the Japanese in this heavyweight battle. A victory would make them immortal, but a defeat would fail to halt their march to greatness.

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