x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

London glory

Yesterday's qualification to this summer's Olympic Games is the UAE's finest football achievement since reaching the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

It has been a long wait, but in the end it was well worth it. As the UAE confirmed its qualification for the 2012 London Olympics yesterday in Tashkent, Emirati football fans were able to celebrate the country's finest achievement on the international stage since reaching the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Yesterday's 3-2 win against Uzbekistan crowned a successful qualifying campaign in which the Olympic team's excellent performances consistently overshadowed those of the senior national team, which has already failed in its bid to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Thanks to our Olympic team, UAE football stands on the brink of a bright new era; it is vital that this golden opportunity not be wasted.

The coach, Mahdi Ali, has moulded a talented, close-knit group of players and must be backed fully to complete the job in London. This is not the time to break up a winning formula.

Beyond the Olympics, every effort must be made to ensure that the development of these players continues. Like Hamdan Al Kamali, who was sought by French Ligue 1 team Lyon, others must be allowed to test their skills against some of the world's top players in foreign leagues. The momentum generated by yesterday's success can be used to propel the UAE's rising generation into the senior national set up.

That's the long-term goal, of course. For now, let's just celebrate.