x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fans brave Abu Dhabi heat to watch Man City take title

“We are going to celebrate this everywhere today. We’ll drive around Abu Dhabi, we’ll head to Dubai. We want all the country to know how good we feel right now.”

There were varying degrees of excitement at the free outdoor screening of the decider between Manchester City and West Ham, but those who stayed awake celebrated energetically. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
There were varying degrees of excitement at the free outdoor screening of the decider between Manchester City and West Ham, but those who stayed awake celebrated energetically. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // With a roar as the referee blew the final whistle, hundreds of Manchester City supporters celebrated their team becoming Premier League champions on Sunday at an outdoor screening in Zayed Sports City.

“I can’t describe my happiness,” said Abdullah Al Braiki, 25, who was sporting a sky blue kandura he had made especially for the occasion.

“This is a victory not only for us but for all of the UAE, and we have to congratulate Sheikh Mansour [bin Zayed, owner of City] on what he has achieved with this team.”

Mr Al Braiki, an Emirati, and four of his friends were just a handful of the City supporters who braved the early evening heat to watch the game, in which City beat West Ham 2-0, outdoors.

Blue beanbags, benches and concession stands were set up at the venue, while Manchester City Football School conducted youth training on the adjacent pitches.

Seif Al Mazroui, 12, who was training with the school, said it had been a long time since he had felt so confident in his team.

“I was very happy two years ago when we took the title and finally I can be happy again,” said Seif.

With City only needing a draw to win the title, he predicted an easy victory.

“We’ll beat them by three goals as West Ham are not that good,” Seif said.

Pre-match confidence was widespread, the festive atmosphere at the stadium setting in early.

“This is the best team in the league and I have a feeling we’ll score about five today,” said Saeed Al Kayed, 35, who took along his three children.

“I admit I used to be an Arsenal fan but when we took over City I didn’t hesitate to switch.

“Now all my family support Manchester City all the way.”

Another City supporter at the screening was Azizan Othman, 43.

“I fly Airbuses for Etihad Airways so of course I support them,” said the Malaysian pilot.

His 12-year-old son, Aiman, was also sure of victory. “We’re on a winning streak and I’m not scared since West Ham is a small team.”

But confidence turned to frustration in the first half, with City yet to score.

As chance after chance went by, the oohs and aahs became louder, the nail-biting and leg shaking increasing.

“The players are obviously nervous just like me – its understandable,” said Mr Al Braiki.

Soon enough, thanks to Samir Nasri’s goal, hands flew into the air as the nervousness disappeared and serious looks turned into ones of relief.

But not everyone in the stadium was happy.

Despite wearing a City jersey with his surname on the back, Ben Terblanche, 8, had hoped for a different outcome.

“Actually, I’m a Man United fan and my dad is a Liverpool fan,” said the second grader.

“I kind of like Liverpool so I hope they win it for my dad.”

The celebrations continued after the break when City’s captain, Vincent Kompany, sent the supporters wild as he scored the team’s second goal.

As the final whistle drew near, people stood up from their beanbags and chairs and crowded the giant screen in anticipation.

“We are going to celebrate this everywhere today,” said Mr Al Braiki, who planned to meet up with friends to share in the joy. “We’ll drive around Abu Dhabi, we’ll head to Dubai. We want all the country to know how good we feel right now.”

tsubaihi@thenational.ae