How Emirati spirit of unity won UAE a tough pre-quarters clash
UAE fans show their support during the match against Kyrgyzstan in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi - One by one each and every fan stood up singing the national anthem in unison
By Ashwani Kumar
Published: Tue 22 Jan 2019, 9:33 PM
Last updated: Tue 22 Jan 2019, 11:41 PM
In the knockout game of the AFC Asian Cup 2019, the UAE twice surrendered the lead to Kyrgyzstan, the second one being an additional time equaliser through Tursunali Rustamov header. The 2-2 score meant extra time or even penalties were needed to determine the winner at the Zayed Sports City Stadium. There was no second chance in offing and the UAE's dream of securing a historic title at home on Feb. 1 was hanging in fine balance.
Just then in the 103rd minute, substitute Ahmed Khalil regained the lead through a penalty conversion. The 3-2 score brought much relief to the UAE camp but there was anxiety in equal measure as Kyrgyzstan kept pressing into the rival box.
And in the 106th minute, Kyrgyzstan midfielder Bakhtiyar Duyshobekov struck the left post with his header. It felt as if the visitors were getting close to another equaliser.
There was palpable tension in the stadium. Time was not passing, it was turning in circles. And out of the blue, a chorus of Ishi Biladi started from one end of the stand. One by one each and every fan stood up singing the national anthem in unison. With just few minutes remaining on the clock, the passionate fans took it upon themselves to drive the team through to the quarterfinals. Zayed Sports City Stadium witnessed never seen before moments of the Asian Cup for fans to inspire players by singing the national anthem.
The fans showed the Spirit of Unity. The fans, oozing with nationalism, displayed the true Emirati spirit. There might be test of character, hours of crisis, bigger opponents and greater competitions but the UAE can withstand all that and more, and succeed by standing together. 'Long Live my Country' was the cry.
And in the 122th minute when Tursunali Rustamov pranced down the left flank and let go a left-footer scorcher. Fans held their breath and the shot, unbelievably, crashed into the bar. However, in a dramatic sense of play, it felt the Emirati spirit of unity had acted as a shield against Rustamov's shot. For the record, no side had hit the goal post in a Cup match more times than Kyrgyzstan. Within seconds, the referee blew the final whistle and the stadium erupted in joy.
As luck would have it for the fans and players, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces was present in the stadium with his grandchildren.
At the end, the UAE players rightly thanked the fans for support. And the fans once again sang Ishi Biladi but this time to be joined by the players.