x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Time Frame: Men in black

In 1998, the semi finals of the World Club in France saw a clean sweep by the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

No, there is no need to re-check the record books. The game in question is the battle for a place in the World Cup Final between Brazil and the Netherlands but which was entirely officiated by the Gulf.

Wearing the referee’s whistle on July 7 , in front of 54,000 people at the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles, was Ali Bujsaim from the UAE. Now retired, Bujsaim officiated in no less than three World Cups from the USA in 1994 to South Africa in 2002.

A former player for Al Nasr, Bujsaim took up refereeing after retiring from football in 1983. He is shown here reclaiming the match ball from the Dutch defender Frank de Boer,with match eventually won on penalties, 4-2, by Brazil.

Supporting Bujsaim were three other Arab officials, the linesmen Mohamed Al Musawi from Oman and Hussain Ghadanfari from Kuwait. The fourth official was Saudi Arabia’s Abdulrahman Al Zaid.

The communication on the field included Arabic, Portuguese and Dutch, a combination first heard when the Dutch replaced the Portuguese as imperial invaders on the Arabian peninsular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Perhaps inevitably, six yellow cards were awarded.

* James Langton