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'Lights of Rome': Sports diplomacy breaks cultural barrie

Ashwani Kumar/Abu Dhabi
Filed on May 23, 2017

The Emirates Diplomatic Academy screened the documentary on the incredible journey of the UAE's national football team to 1990 Fifa World Cup Italy

Sports has the power to unite the world like little else or so proves a documentary on the UAE fotoball team.

The Emirates Diplomatic Academy, as part of its Culture Week, screened Lights of Rome - a documentary on the incredible journey of the UAE's national football team to 1990 Fifa World Cup Italy.

The heroics of the Golden Generation of footballers in 1990 placed the UAE on the world map and also provided a glimpse of the progress the country was set to make in future. More importantly, the world stage provided an opportunity to showcase the Emirati culture and promote the country.

The documentary directed by Ali Khaled and produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi features the UAE's most historic moments.

"All players were born before the unification of December 1971. It's a great metaphor of the progress the UAE did across all fields. Sport spreads the message about a country than business or other aspects do. The 1990 squad brought the world attention to the achievements of the UAE," Khaled said after the screening of the documentary.

Hana Makki of Image Nation said the story of the UAE football is a fantastic message on the growth of the country.

Academy president Bernardino Leon said sport is an important energy in international relations.

Italian Ambassador to the UAE Liborio Stellino said he started his diplomatic career in 1990.

"The UAE was an incredible surprise for the Italian audience."

Talking about 'sport diplomacy', he said: "First visit to Abu Dhabi by an Italian prime minister happened few months after the World Cup."

Stellino cited many examples starting with one of the most politically charged Fifa World Cup games that saw the US and Iran take a joint team photo before their match in 1998.

"I believe in the power of sports."

Stellino said: "In the film Invictus, Morgan Freeman acts as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as captain Francois Pienaar. It shows how a visionary leader like Mandel exploited the power of sports to reconcile a country. Indian tennis player Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan's Aisam ul Haq Qureshi sparked tennis diplomacy."

The ambassador added: "Diplomacy is a canvas and sports can give an opportunity to create small but meaningful masterpiece."

ashwani@khaleejtimes.com


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