In 2007, the UAE won the 18th edition of Gulf Cup in Abu Dhabi — the first time for the country — and it was a big achievement.
In less than six years, the UAE have won the 21st Gulf Cup in Bahrain in a sweeter and more emphatic season for many reasons.
The first victory in 2007 was achieved with the team enjoying the advantage of playing at home. This time it was achieved away in Bahrain, after beating all opponents, bearing in mind that six years back they had lost their opener to Oman.
This time, the UAE fielded almost a completely new team, without any experience in the regional tournament and drawn from the former UAE Olympic side that featured in the 2012 London Olympics.
What made this victory sweeter is the fact that it is a homebred success under the guidance of local coach Mahdi Ali, who found fame when he led the same team five years ago to win the Asian Youth Championship in Saudi Arabia in 2008, then to the quarter finals of the Fifa Youth World Cup in Egypt in 2009 and the silver medal of the 2010 Asian Games.
In this edition, they played five games and won all five. Ahmad Khalil ended as the joint topscorer with three goals and Omar Abdul Rahman the MVP of the tournament. Omar’s goal against Iraq is a story of amazing ball control and dazzling talent.
Ali Khaseef, the custodian, should have won the trophy of Best Goalkeeper, which went to Iraq’s Noor Sabri, but I believe the organisers found it difficult to award all personal titles to the UAE players. Khaseef conceded only three goals, the same as Sabri and the latter got the title.
The bottom line for the UAE is, more than the Gulf Cup success, they seem to have found a winning team.
This is the golden generation of UAE football. They have conquered all challenges and proved to be a sure bet.