x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Emirati Life: Pride in my team and pride in my nation

The momentous occasion of being crowned Gulf Cup champions could have been used an excuse to cause havoc and disturb the peace, but instead UAE supporters conducted themselves in a mild-mannered way.

After the UAE captured their historic second Gulf Cup title last Friday, you would have been hard pressed to find UAE citizens of any age unmoved by the occasion.

Even those indifferent to football could be found screaming and jumping when the national team scored in extra time to secure regional football supremacy.

But what was much less apparent were signs of public disorder. There was no belligerence, vandalism and rioting during the ensuing celebrations.

In many parts of the world, a team's success can result in hooliganism, which often leads to destruction of private and public property, verbal and physical confrontation, even injuries and deaths.

While well-documented in European football, this type of unrest is not limited to a particular region or sport.

My last city of residence, San Francisco, has recently seen much sports success which unfortunately has been accompanied by disorderly fan behaviour. After the city's baseball team, the Giants, won the World Series in October last year, celebrations turned violent, with fires lit in the streets, car and business windows broken, a public transit bus torched, dozens of arrests and firefighters needing police escorts.

More recently, during a sold-out American football playoff game at the San Francisco 49ers' Candlestick Park stadium, 92 fans were ejected, 25 were arrested and another 62 were treated by medical staff.

These are but a few of the many examples where sports celebrations turn into lawlessness.

However, in the UAE as well as the Gulf Cup host country Bahrain, Emirati fans' celebrations resulted in little more than additional pride and joy for the Emirates.

So controlled were the UAE fans' expressions of jubilation at the stadium after the final whistle that many of my non-Emirati friends watching the game remarked how mayhem would have closely followed had their national team won an equivalent competition.

Calls for calm from travelling and domestic fans could be heard before the final's kick-off as authorities and commentators appealed for respect of the law.

These requests were even repeated on television immediately following the final by one of the victorious players during his postgame interview.

And for the most part they were heeded, as little more than spontaneous car parading, engine-revving, wheel-spinning, horn-honking and silly string-spraying disturbed public order. Even during times that call for extreme celebration, the majority of UAE citizens have shown their capacity to respect people, property and law whether on home soil or away.

The momentous occasion of being crowned Gulf Cup champions could have been used an as excuse for havoc and to disturb the peace, but instead UAE supporters conducted themselves in a mild-mannered way.

This not only reflects well on the country on a regional and international stage, but also illustrates the developed and considerate demeanour of Emiratis and their country as a whole.

Thamer Al Subaihi is a reporter at The National and a returning Emirati who grew up largely in the US

tsubaihi@thenational.ae