ABU DHABI // Fans of Manchester City can get up close and personal with one of the most famous trophies in world football when the FA Cup goes on display at CityStore in Marina Mall today.
The 150-year-old cup was given its own first-class seat on the flight from Manchester to Abu Dhabi, and will be on show until Saturday.
At CityStore yesterday, two fans who went in to buy a jersey were elated when they saw the cup as a press preview was being conducted.
"I still can't believe it's here," said Hamad al Hashimi, from Abu Dhabi.
He was one of thousands of local fans who watched Man City beat Stoke City 1-0 last month to win the FA Cup, the club's first major trophy since it captured the League Cup in 1976.
"I was so proud that Abu Dhabi's team won it. After a 35-year gap [in winning a major trophy], and with the support and help of Abu Dhabi and the chairman, the dream came true. Thank you Sheikh Mansour," said the 29-year-old social worker for Abu Dhabi police.
Sheikh Mansour's private equity holding, Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, bought the club in August 2008. Khaldoon al Mubarak, the head of Mubadala Development Company, is club chairman.
Saeed al Hussani, another fan who visited the shop, was delighted to be so near the cup.
"I watched most of the games and it was such a great feeling to see them win the final," Mr al Hussani, 29, said. He said he hoped to travel to the City of Manchester Stadium next season, and had high hopes for the team.
"We will get to see them play in the Champions League which will be interesting because I am a Barcelona fan, too," the Abu Dhabi police officer said.
The club legend Mike Summerbee, who was in the last Manchester City team to win the FA Cup, in 1969, accompanied the trophy to the capital.
"I've watched FA Cup finals since I was a young boy and I know how important it is. You've got the Champions League and other cups but the history of the FA Cup is unbelievable," he said.
That history stretches all the way back to the 1871-72 football season, when 15 clubs in England's Football Association first competed for the Cup.
Manchester City, founded in 1880, would win the Cup in 1904 (over Bolton, 1-0), 1934 (over Portsmouth, 2-1), 1956 (over Birmingham City, 3-1), 1969 (over Leicester City, 3-1) and again this year.
After many fallow years, Man City have improved beyond recognition since Abu Dhabi United Group became the owners, and they finished third in the Premier League season just finished. Summerbee, who is the club ambassador, said the mood and the atmosphere have changed dramatically since the new owners took over.
UAE fans are well known back at the stadium for being part of the party.
"Abu Dhabi has some fantastic supporters and it's growing all the time," said Summerbee. "It's important for them to see the FA Cup. Look at the history of football in England," pointing to the trophy, "and that's the history there, that one particular thing, the FA Cup."
Summerbee will be at CityStore tomorrow at 5pm to meet fans who come to see the cup.
The new away strip also went on display for the first time outside the UK. It was displayed last month when the players wore the jersey at the end of a victory tour of Manchester. It is the same black and red strip that Summerbee donned in 1969 and is made from one piece of cloth.
"It makes you look bigger and gives you a bit of aura," he said.