x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A theatre of dreams

For an Emirati football fan, the sight of the great arches of Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi is as emotive as the twin towers of the old Wembley Stadium in London.

The completion of a sports stadium in Abu Dhabi, 1981.
The completion of a sports stadium in Abu Dhabi, 1981.

For an Emirati football fan, the sight of the great arches of Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi is as emotive as the twin towers of the old Wembley Stadium in London.

It was in this stadium that the national team enjoyed their greatest moment of glory: capturing the Gulf Cup of Nations on a memorable January evening in 2007, that saw the UAE defeat Oman thanks to a single goal from the local hero Ismail Matar.

The victory, slim though it was, sparked wild celebrations across the country, wiping away painful memories of the loss - on penalties - to Saudi Arabia in the final of the 1996 Asian Cup at the same venue.

This photograph shows the stadium in 1981, shortly after it was completed. It was taken by Bruno Barbey, a Moroccan-born French photographer who first visited Abu Dhabi in November 1971 and chronicled the birth of the nation.

The national stadium was originally designed to hold 60,000 people, but to comply with Fifa regulations, the capacity has since been reduced to 49,500.

Other memorable games include the defeat of Manchester City by the national team in a friendly fixture in November 2009 and the final of the Fifa Club World Cup last December in which TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo became the first African team to reach the final of the competition.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae