x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

15. World Cup boots, 1990

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

Abdulaziz Mohammed's World Cup football boots. Visit <a href=40@40 for videos documenting the stories behind many of the historic objects in this series." src="/image/policy:1.465862:1499653625/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=1024&$p$f$w=2589da4" srcset=" /image/policy:1.465862:1499653625/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=700&$p$f$w=15b47cd 700w, /image/policy:1.465862:1499653625/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=940&$p$f$w=14a127f 940w, /image/policy:1.465862:1499653625/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=1024&$p$f$w=2589da4 1024w" class="img-responsive full-width"/>
Abdulaziz Mohammed's World Cup football boots. Visit 40@40 for videos documenting the stories behind many of the historic objects in this series.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, June 19 1990, Abdulaziz Mohammed laced up these Adidas Copa Mundial boots in the dressing room of the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara in Bologna and stepped out to take on Yugoslavia in the most significant game of his life.
It was the 1990 World Cup, arguably the biggest sporting occasion on the planet, and for the first time in history, the national team of the United Arab Emirates was taking part. It had been a long hard road to Italy, from finishing top of the pre-qualification group to a magnificent 2-1 victory over China in the Asian Football Confederation finals and automatic qualification for the finals of the tournament.
Now 46 and retired from the game, Mohammed remembers being "overwhelmed by a strong feeling of happiness for joining other players to represent the UAE" in the world's biggest sporting event. "We received an endless flow of calls from Emirati leadership and people to boost our morale," he says. "This helped us show our best game."
Regarded as a World Cup minnow, the UAE showed a commendable fighting spirit, scoring two goals in a tough group that also included West Germany, Colombia and Yugoslavia. Despite losing all three group games, the team returned to a heroes' welcome at Al Bateen airport. Mohammed, who had carried the UAE flag at the opening ceremony, recalls that it "surprised us all".
"At the forefront of the greeters were Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, who spared no effort during our stay inside or outside the UAE as a national team. On the second day of our arrival, we went to meet the late Sheikh Zayed, who thanked us for the great success we had achieved by qualifying for the World Cup, and ordered a grant of Dh500,000 for all team members."
To this day, the members of the 1990 national squad remain heroes and exemplify the spirit of Grantland Rice's poem, Alumnus Football: "For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes - not that you won or lost - but how you played the Game."