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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

'We have won the respect of the world': Al Ain fans beaten but unbowed

Real Madrid may have eased to a 4-1 victory, but Al Ain's historic achievements at the Club World Cup will not be forgotten

Al Ain fans were full of pride after their side went toe-to-toe with Spanish giants Real Madrid. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Al Ain fans were full of pride after their side went toe-to-toe with Spanish giants Real Madrid. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A spirited Al Ain performance was not enough to stop Real Madrid from claiming the Fifa Club World Cup with a dominant 4-1 victory.

But the Garden City can hold their head high as the bitter taste of defeat was tempered by the historic achievement in reaching the final for the first time.

Al Ain fans had urged their team to fight to the end in what was a noisy and electrified Zayed Sports City. And they gave everything for each other, their fans, club and country in arguably the biggest night in Emirati club football history.

Streaming out of the game, fans were proud of their team’s achievement, particularly their victory over Copa Libertadores champions River Plate in the semi-final.

“It was a great game in first half but then we just died,” said Abdelhafiz Ali, 32. “We were a bit nervous at the start and the goals we gave away were mainly silly mistakes. Real Madrid are used to big games but Al Ain are not. Real have also only played two games.

“But Al Ain have won the respect of the world. This gives us a platform to build on.”

Other fans shared the concerns about Al Ain playing so many games.

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Read more:

Al Ain v Real Madrid: fans braced for date with destiny

Film review: UAE football’s spirit is celebrated in The Lights of Rome

Fifa Club World Cup: Al Ain beat River Plate on penalties to reach historic final

Emirati Real Madrid fans face tough decision ahead of Club World Cup final

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“We played four games,” said another fan on his way out of the stadium. “It was too much. But this was still history for us.”

While it was not the result Al Ain’s purple army had dreamed of, it was nonetheless a day when all who love UAE football held their heads high.

“We lost today but it’s still one of greatest nights in UAE football history,” said Ali Khaled, director of Lights of Rome, a documentary about the UAE football team’s journey to the 1990 World Cup.

“The benefits for UAE football are incalculable and people across the world will have watched on.”

Ali Al Khadouri, who had driven up from the Garden City for the game, said: “It was a big night. Real Madrid may not have known about us before but now that doesn’t matter.”

The UAE’s leaders also reacted to the result. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, congratulated Real Madrid and Al Ain on their performance.

Updated: December 22, 2018 11:32 PM

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