The UAE national team are unbeaten going into the finals tonight of this, the 21st edition of the Gulf Cup, being held in Bahrain. One more game left for the glory - and only one winner as the UAE face Iraq's formidable team, which made the entire Middle East proud with their 2007 Asia Cup victory. This will certainly be our side's toughest match of the tournament.
But the UAE is well led and strongly supported. Mahdi Ali, the first Emirati manager after a string of short-term expatriates, has a young team that has shown impressive quality. Excitement before the semifinals built to such a degree that sheikhs, government entities and businessmen pitched in to charter planes, even enlisting military aircraft, to ensure that no fan was left behind.
And did it pay off. A last-minute goal by striker Ahmed Khalil gave the nearly 5,000 UAE fans in attendance, and many others back home, something to cheer about with a 1-0 victory over Kuwait. Expect a similar atmosphere today with at least 40 UAE planes bound for Bahrain.
This side has been compared with that of 1990, the first and only UAE team to qualify for the World Cup. Regardless of the result tonight, there is beautiful football ahead.