Monday 22nd January
Rest day. Trip to Al Ain, a desert oasis two hours east of Abu Dhabi. What do you expect to find at an oasis? Well here there was lots of palm trees, providing welcome shade and an efficient irrigation system, but no sign of a pool of water. if you ever visit and find it. Don’t tell me. With nothing else happening in town I took a short walk into Oman, just to check it out before they host the next Gulf Cup in 2009. Buraimi was a quiet village, but the guide book showed a restored fort as the main attraction. So walking unnoticed over the border, I walked to find the restored fort ……. closed.
Tuesday 23rd January
Back to Abu Dhabi for the U.A.E.’s last group game. This time the two game’s would take place at different venues I chose the hosts game against Kuwait. This time I simply said hello to the assistants in the Adidas shop and was given tickets for both of today’s games.
Again at the game I asked about my ticket. This time I was told I could enter the main stand, but (of course) that I should come back later. Returning later I was told to go to another turnstile at which I was told it was only for V.I.P.’s. I didn’t bother trying to explain that I once was a V.I.P. Another forceful start from U.A.E. and again almost immediately the home side take the lead. Three goals in 5 minutes see the game level at 2 each. Kuwait ( 9 times winners of the competition) looked in control in the second half and came close on a number of occasions, but in injury time Ismael Matar (just about to come into shot below) scored to the relief of the crowd.
The most frightening celebration I saw that night was a large 4 wheel drive coming round the corner at a main set of traffic lights on 2 wheels. The celebrations continued on the way into town as people hung out car windows and the drivers revved them up as though a formula one race was about to start.