23 january 2019
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Henry Winter

Alan Hansen



A brief history of the UAE national teams

A brief history of the UAE national teams

The United Arab Emirates national football team is the national team of United Arab Emirates and is controlled by the United Arab Emirates Football Association. It made one World Cup appearance, in 1990, but lost all three of its games, to Colombia, West Germany, and Yugoslavia. The side rebounded to take fourth place in the 1992 Asian Cup, and runner-up in 1996. In both tournaments their final match was lost on penalty kicks. In 2007 the UAE beat Oman 1-0 to win the Gulf Cup for the first time in their history.

Under the presidency of Shaikh Manie bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, the UAE began to make stronger presence at the Gulf, Arab, Asian and international arenas thanks to his dedication and relentless efforts. Plans were tailored to promote the game and leading football sides from around the world were invited to visit the country and play against the local clubs. In 1975/1976 the national league and President Cup were introduced at the country’s level to replace the old system which organizes tournaments at the different emirates separately.

Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan succeeded Shaikh Manie Al Maktoum and pushed forward the efforts of advancing the game in the country.

Many tournaments were organized at the Gulf level and the UAE hosted for the first time the meetings of the Gulf Football Associations ahead of the seventh round of the Gulf Cup. UAE qualified for the first time in its history to the AFC Asian Cup finals in Kuwait.

Salem Al Ghammai was next president of the FA during a transitional period before the reins were passed to Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayed in the most critical stage which saw the emerge of three national teams i.e. the senior, youth and junior national teams. The senior national team advanced to the AFC Asian Cup in Singapore, the youth national team finished top in the AFC Asian U-19 Cp qualifiers in Dammam and claimed the title of the Friendship Championship in Muscat.

The most outstanding achievements during Shaikh Hamdan’s Era finishing second in the Gulf Cup in Bahrain 1986 and Saudi Arabia 1988. In 1986 the senior national team stood on the verge of a historic qualification to the FIFA World Cup finals and the dream came true four years in Italy 1990.

Under the Al Rumaithi’s Presidency, the U-19 national team made history by winning the AFC U-19 Cup. This was the first silverware for the UAE at the continental level. The same squad qualified for the FIFA Youth World Cup Egypt 2009 and finished fifth at the world level after making it into the last eight with splendid performance. The U-17 national team qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria 2009.

Although the national side has been around for less than 40 years, the All Whites can boast some impressive results. They have reached the Gulf Cup final on three occasions (1986, 1988, 1994), and won it in 2007 in front of their own fans, by defeating Oman in the final. They also reached the Asian Cup Final in 1996.

The following year the UAE U-20 side qualified for the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship in Malaysia, but the team did not reach the second round. In 2003 when they hosted the same tournament, the UAE reached the quarter-finals, with, one of their players, Ismail Matar, awarded the adidas Golden Ball. Without doubt, however, their most impressive achievement to date was in qualifying for the 1990 Italy.

Recently, the All Whites qualified for the 2011 Doha AFC Asian Cup and the Olympic national team claimed the silver medal of the 16th Asian Games in China for the first time in the history of the young nation.


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