Since 2004, when special units started to be deployed at UAE football matches to deal with unruly fans, cases of hooliganism have been rare.
But the incident on Saturday during a Pro League match in Dubai sent a worrying signal that the nuisance might be rearing its head.
The result of the Rashid Stadium match, between Al Ahli and Al Ain, remained inconclusive as the game ended earlier than scheduled after a flying metallic object injured one of the referees. Officials suspect the object was hurled from the crowd.
To be sure, football excites its fans the world over. But that excitement can lead to unruly behaviour. Hooliganism has been a scourge from England to Egypt, and elsewhere. Fans divided on racial, religious or political lines have too often taken to the stands to settle grievances.
Fortunately, this has been relatively rare in the Emirates. Now that this disgraceful incident has occurred, we must protect the future of the "beautiful game" here. Clearly at least one mischief-maker acted with little logic. Before this kind of behaviour spreads like a virus, damaging the game, it must be nipped in the bud.