SHARJAH // In the "Scream For Your Team" tent at Sharjah's Al Qasba last night, the premise was not so simple for Abdullah Hassan. With Ivory Coast taking to the pitch against Portugal, the 18-year-old Emirati college student cheering for the West African nation still wanted to see his favourite player, Cristiano Ronaldo, perform well.
"I want Africa to win this World Cup; it's their chance so I support all African teams," he said. "In this match I want Ivory Coast to win but I also cherish the good moves of Ronaldo. I am always his fan." Despite his professed support for the Ivory Coast he shouted in dismay when his Portuguese hero received a yellow card in 26th minute for pushing a rival defender. "Dhulm, Dhulm!" he yelled at the screen, using the Arabic word for unfair. And he later jumped out of his seat when, in the 40th minute, Ronaldo shot from 40 yards only to be disappointed when the ball hit a post.
Though the match failed to draw a large crowd at the popular Al Qasba entertainment venue, which had decked out its tent with two large projectors and 10 television screens, about 40 fans had gathered by the end of the match. Mohammed Ali, a 22-year-old Emirati, said he was watching for Didier Drogba, who he wanted to play at all costs. Drogba required surgery after injuring an arm in Sion, Switzerland, in a collision with Japan defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka.
The 32-year-old player was granted permission by the world governing body Fifa to play in the World Cup while wearing a cast. "For me I support Chelsea and am here for Drogba, I want him to show the Arsenal and Man U guys what a talent he has," said Mr Ali. His wish was answered an hour in when the Chelsea star took to the pitch, but it did little to change the dynamic of the game. There was loud applause when with time was running out, Abdelkader Keita passed to Drogba who was lurking in the penalty area but the ball went wide and soon after the final whistle blew with the game ending 0-0.
"All the teams were playing mostly a defensive game," said Mohammed Abbasi, another Ivory Coast fan. "But a draw is better for Ivory Coast, they can now try their chances with North Korea. The group is a group of death, they have to do much more to qualify for the second stage," he said. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org