As the dust settles on the UAE’s Gulf Cup of Nations win, we’re left to imagine where this very talented young football team can go. Before anything else, they’ll probably be cruising down Beach Road in their brand new Range Rovers and Bentleys, a gift they received after their success on the football pitch.
But in footballing terms, what is achievable for the UAE team? First up is the Asian Cup in 2015, to be held in Australia. The UAE have only made the final once, when the tournament was held in the UAE in 1996. On that occasion they lost on penalties. Then there’s the World Cup in Russia 2018. The last time the UAE performed on the world stage was Italia ’90.
Russia is a very realistic aim. Many of the current side are under 23, so they’ll have matured by the World Cup. Take a player such as Omar Abdulrahman, the young talent at Al Ain. Manchester City had him on trial in the summer and he turned down a contract. The playmaker decided to commit to Al Ain for now, but surely it won’t be long until he turns to Europe. The UAE national manger, Mahdi Ali, has a superb future with his team – if they get Range Rovers and Bentleys for winning the Gulf Cup, imagine what a strong performance in Russia will get them.
Never mind about gifts for victories: world number seven golfer Lee Westwood just wants a Desert Classic win. The Englishman has been runner-up three times at the European Tour event, which kicks off this year in Dubai on Thursday January 31. In 1999 he lost to David Howell; in 2010 he missed out in a play-off against Miguel Angel Jimenez; and last year he let his final-day lead slip to Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Westwood gave most the silent treatment after his loss in 2012 – let’s hope he can get his win this year.
Tom Bushell hosts Sport On 7 on City 7 TV (Mon 8pm) and is Arabian Radio Network’s head of sport
And another thing…
Temperatures have plummeted in UAE of late: maybe not quite as much as in Europe, but there’s a chill in the air – and the sea. With that in mind, best of luck to anyone swimming round the Burj Al Arab on Friday February 1: the annual Wild Wadi-organised swim aims to raise funds for Médecins Sans Frontières.