The UAE's first goal on the world stage was scored against eventual champions West Germany
Timeframe: When the UAE scored its first World Cup goal
Twenty-eight years ago to the day, on June 15, 1990, the UAE’s national football team – surprise participants in the 1990 World Cup in Italy – scored their first-ever World Cup goal against eventual champions West Germany in San Siro.
This image shows Adnan Al Talyani challenging West Germany’s Guido Buchwald in the historical match. Diehard football fans will recall that a minute into the second half, midfielder Khalid Ismail Mubarak took advantage of a defensive error by Thomas Haessler, burying the ball deep behind German keeper Bodo Illgner, bringing the score to 2-1.
As documented in the 2016 Ali Khaled film The Lights of Rome, the young team of amateurs shocked the football world by qualifying, and found themselves in the unfamiliar, but very welcomed position of bringing the team, and its relatively new country, to the world stage.
At the time, the UAE was not yet 19 years old, and had narrowly missed qualifying for the previous World Cup in Mexico. Italia 90 was the team’s chance to introduce themselves to billions with a strong showing from a team of men that grew up playing on sand and at beaches. Despite a 2-0 opening loss to Colombia on June 9, and an eventual 5-1 loss to West Germany, the Emiratis scored another goal at their final showing, four days later, in a 4-1 loss to Yugoslavia, where Thani Jumaa scored at the 22-minute mark, exiting the international tournament with pride and a definite sense of validation.