Dubai: A drive along with the revelling UAE fans soon after the Gulf Cup victory on Friday night was an unforgettable experience. It was a fitting salute from the young generation to the heroes of the UAE football team that echoed the passion for the game in this country.
Hooting in musical rhythm, shattering the silence of the cold night, fans were perched all over on their cars, unleashing their joy. Putting on my car’s hazard lights, which symbolises being part of the celebration, it was a sheer delight to join the victory parade. Passers-by waved at the procession of cars until it came to a standstill near the Mamzar beach with thousands queuing up to enter the beach road.
Once on the beach road stretch, it was a free for all. Policemen on bikes ensured fans did not get out of control and slowly drove along by their side. Some waved out replicas of the Gulf Cup, but everyone proudly waved the UAE flag from their car tops or from outside the car windows. Young and old, women and elderly men were all part of the procession and everyone had a smile while flashing the V sign.
Some adventurous youngsters climbed on top of their cars and danced, balancing well while waving the flags. It was so cold that some of them used their hoods to cover their nose and ears while standing on top of their cars. “We have done it. Watch out for UAE,” screamed a youngster vigorously waving the UAE flag.
A build-up to the excitement began soon after the evening prayers. Most fans drove straight from the mosques to the different cafes and restaurants in Deira.
In Ghusais, almost all cafes were dressed up in the red, green, white and black to greet the fans with TV screens being positioned strategically for everyone to enjoy the live telecast.
Shisha cafes were also packed and when Omar Abdul Rahman scored the first goal, they went wild — thumping on the tables. There was a huge sigh of relief when Iraq’s Humman Tareeq’s shot to left of the goal was saved by UAE keeper Ali Khaseef, very soon to be followed by pin-drop silence after Iraq’s Younus Mohammad hit the equaliser. And what followed when UAE’s Esmail Al Hammadi hit the winner will remain etched in one’s mind forever.
“Never before did I want a match to end quickly like I felt after Al Hammadi’s goal,” remarked an overjoyed fan Saeed Hameez after the final whistle. Hameez had brought with him a huge poster of UAE coach Mahdi Ali.
“This is a dream. This victory is just the beginning of many more,” said Abdullah Mohammad, who has styled his hair similar to UAE’s first goal scorer Omar Abdul Rahman.