'It's unbelievable': Al Ain fans in shock and awe after UAE team lifts AFC trophy

After the final whistle blew, fans from the stadium spilled out onto the streets to celebrate their long-awaited triumph


Ahmed Waqqas Alawlaqi

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Fans at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Photos: Al Ain FC/X
Fans at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Photos: Al Ain FC/X

Published: Sun 26 May 2024, 8:59 AM

Last updated: Sun 26 May 2024, 1:43 PM

Emotions ran high as Al Ain football club emerged victorious in the Asian Champions League 2024 final after an emphatic of 5-1 victory over Japan's Yokohama F Marinos.

The night was electrifying, the stadium reverberating with home team fans chanting and egging them towards victory. After the final whistle blew, thousands of fans hit the streets to celebrate their long-awaited triumph.

"It's unbelievable. I'm still trying to accept that we won the Asian Champions League," said Rashed Al Shamsi during the rapturous celebration.

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Speaking to Khaleej Times, Rashed said: "Even though we had lost the first leg (2-1 in Japan on May 11), the atmosphere was electrifying. From the first minute, the audience's energy made it feel like Al Ain was destined to win."

The second Asian Champions League title signifies 'hope' for these fans as this triumph ended the 21-year wait for continental glory for a club whose maiden success came in 2003.

Giant killers

This was a highly 'emotional' tournament which culminated in an unforgettable win on Saturday night.

The 14-time UAE champions had stunned two Saudi giants in their dream run to the final, beating Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr in the quarterfinals and Al Hilal in the post-April 16 storm semifinal tie.

The fans were also relieved after finally ending the drought following two heartbreaking final defeats in 2005 and 2016.

Emiratis from across the UAE poured into the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium to support the team, creating a magical atmosphere at the iconic venue. Many were seen hugging, cheering, jumping, and celebrating after every goal.

"This is my childhood team, and attending today's match and winning the AFC feels fantastic," Eisa Ibrahim told Khaleej Times.

"I had high expectations of winning, but I never anticipated a win with such a huge margin; the fans were amazing, and every second on the pitch was more exciting than the other."

Ghaith Al Nuaimi, another fan, was ecstatic. "I am really happy that we finally got what was ours after 21 years. We lost it twice in 2016 and 2005 but knew we wouldn't lose it again," Ghaith said.

"This tournament was emotional from the start, and it gained momentum once we beat Al Nassr and Al Hilal, which showed us that anything is possible, and now we won the Asian Champions League. This win means there is hope to win international leagues."

Fifa Club World Cup hope

More than just claiming the prestigious continental title, this 6-3 aggregate win represented hope, validation, and the potential for even greater achievements.

The excitement and expectations are now getting bigger and bigger as Al Ain also booked their place at the Fifa Club World Cup with Saturday's win.

"I feel very optimistic about winning the Fifa Club World Cup too; we are playing great football, and the experience we got from the amazing journey through the Asian Cup performance makes me optimistic about being a strong contender in the Club World Cup," Eisa said.

Al Ain famously reached the Club World Cup final in 2018 when they lost the title decider to European giants Real Madrid.

"Previously, we finished as runners-up. The upcoming edition will be even more challenging with 32 teams, but I have full confidence in my team. I believe they will accomplish something that will make Al Ain fans and the entire UAE proud," said Rashed.

Ghaith is also confident that the team will be ready for the Club World Cup challenge.

"The Club World Cup isn't easy, but that's what makes us a better team," he said.

"It is about dealing with all of these challenges, and we are excited as ever to take part in the Club World Cup and to rally behind our team!"


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