In a country in thrall to imported expertise, this should have been a moment of triumph.
An Emirati coach finally entrusted to lead his nation in a World Cup qualifier against one of Asian football's leading powers.
Taking the underperforming national team to play South Korea a month ago in Suwon should have been the proudest moment of Abdullah Misfir's career. As it turned out, he could not have been much further away from where he should have been.
On the eve of the match, Misfir received a call from home telling him that his wife had suffered a heart attack. While his mind was supposed to be focused on mundane notions such as tactics and team selection, he was making urgent calls to doctors in Dubai instructing them to operate.
"It was very hard for me to be so far away from my country then to get such bad news about my wife," Misfir said.
"I did not know what was happening. The doctors were telling me she was not good, that she was in a very bad condition, and that she needed an operation as soon as possible. They were waiting for the decision and I made it when I was with the team in [South] Korea."
Happily, she is out of the hospital and is convalescing well, and Misfir is back on the training field. "I would not like anyone else to experience a moment like that," Misfir, 47, said ahead of the return fixture with the South Koreans at Al Ahli's Rashid Stadium this afternoon.
"We are human beings and I don't have the words to describe how bad that felt. I am grateful that she is fine now."
Given what was going on in the real world for the players and staff of the UAE team back then, the issue of getting the stalled World Cup qualifying campaign back on track was wholly insignificant.
The players were still coming to terms with the death of their young teammate, Theyab Awana, in a road accident, while their coach had a significant distraction of his own.
Yet through all the adversity, the side found unity, as well as a strong bond with their new manager.
"We respect his decision to stay with us," Ismail Matar, the Al Wahda forward, was quoted as saying at the time.
"I think every player understands the situation we are in, and everyone is emotionally charged up."
Misfir, who had one friendly match against China before the South Korea game, a 2-1 defeat, is not alone in thinking his side were already showing marked signs of progress, following on from the ignominious end to Srecko Katanec's stint in charge.
Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi, the Football Association president, said "the team showed remarkable improvement" in their first two matches under new management.
It was quite a feat, given the backdrop. If he does make a success of his new job, it would be a boon for that rarest of breeds: an Emirati football coach.
Amid the rubble of another foreign coach's failed attempt to shape up the national team, that of the Slovenian Katanec, the FA decided it was time to look for answers closer to home.
In September, it was announced Misfir, who had served in the caretaker role 11 years previously, would take charge of the team for the remainder of the qualifying process.
Not that the Umm Al Qaiwain-born coach is an insular thinker. He has been happy to pick the mind of overseas-based coaches in the past, but only the best will do.
In 1991, when a 27-year-old Misfir was drawing a line under a playing career that most notably took in Al Ain and Sharjah, he went to Manchester to study for a coaching diploma, part of which meant shadowing Sir Alex Ferguson.
There seems to be a neat irony here. Twenty years on, Misfir has ascended to the top job in a country where the shelf-life of football managers is usually not much longer than that of a box of apples.
While UAE-based coaches can often count the length of their service in days, Ferguson has just celebrated 25 years at the helm of Manchester United by having a stand named in his honour.
The contrast could not be much greater, to this part of the world, where the 53rd managerial change in just over three Pro League seasons happened earlier this week.
Patience is hardly a virtue in ready supply but, as Misfir says, Ferguson is an extreme counterpoint.
"I don't think anyone else will repeat what he has done," he said of the United manager. "He was very good to me. I have a lot of respect for him and till now I have followed Manchester United matches because of him. I like him, and I like his work.
"He is tough, I know that, but he is tough because he is standing up for what he believes to be right on the field.
"He is tough because he is fighting for his ideas. That is why he has achieved so much."