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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

Al Ain FC has propelled UAE football onto the world stage

A club is a family whose success depends on individual flair, teamwork and the support of the community

Al Ain players will aim for glory on Saturday in the final of the Fifa Club World Cup. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Al Ain players will aim for glory on Saturday in the final of the Fifa Club World Cup. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Three down, one to go. Victory over South American champions River Plate has propelled Al Ain Football Club into the final of the Fifa Club World Cup, placed the UAE on the world sporting stage and united a nation in passionate belief. Come kick-off on Saturday, all hearts across the Emirates will be beating as one.

In many respects, the story of Al Ain Sports and Cultural Club mirrors that of the UAE. Although the football club is its flagship, for the past 50 years AASCC has been a focal point for the community, encouraging and enabling the UAE’s youth to experience and excel in all sports. Founded in 1968, the club was just three years old when the UAE was born. It has grown with the nation, reflecting in sporting achievement the national drive to excel. Its football team emerged in 1971, just four months before the UAE flag flew for the first time. The story goes that a group of young men were watching British soldiers playing the game and thought they might be quite good at it. They were. The club’s first fixture, and victory, was against those very soldiers. Three years later the club won its first title, the Abu Dhabi League cup, and hasn’t looked back since, as a packed trophy cabinet attests.

Football offers many parallels with life. A team is a family whose success depends upon individual flair, selfless teamwork and the support of the community. Heroes – such as goalkeeper Khalid Essa, who last night pulled off a second penalty-shootout save to put Al Ain in the final – emerge when needed most. Before this tournament began, victory over River Plate might justifiably have prompted headline writers to cast Al Ain in the role of a David versus a Goliath. But having despatched the champions of Oceania, Africa and South America, it is clear that Al Ain are no giant-killers. Whatever the outcome on Saturday, they are now giants.

Updated: December 19, 2018 07:32 PM

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