Landing a football team in England for the London 2012 Games became a reality for the UAE last night when Mahdi Ali’s side touched down at the Manchester airport, behind schedule but eager to make a fast start.
“Everything is good,” said Hamdan Al Kamali, the defender and captain. “It was a long journey, but we are ready to go.”
Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabhkout elicited smiles from London 2012 volunteers as well as curious bystanders as Abdulrahman, the diminutive midfielder, sat atop a bag loaded on a luggage trolley which was pushed by his teammate.
Five uniformed London 2012 volunteers met the team to ensure they travelled without incident to their lodgings at the Marriott Worsley Park Hotel, where Team Great Britain, Uruguay and Senegal also are staying.
At least a dozen uniformed Greater Manchester Police were on the scene, as was Khalifa Al Marri, a protocol office from the UAE embassy in London, who travelled to Manchester “to make the team feel welcome in England”.
The Lufthansa flight from Munich was 43 minutes late on landing at Manchester at 5.28pm, and more than 70 minutes later Mahdi Ali had yet to emerge into the arrivals area. A UAE official said he was overseeing an inquiry into some team equipment that may not have made the plane.
The players seemed at ease. Several, including Haboush Saleh, wore oversized “hipster” glasses, and several more wore baseball caps skewed at various unconventional angles.
As they waited for their coach, many players inquired at a shop in the airport about local phone plans, and others made a stop at the coffee shop.