United Arab Emirates
© AFP

The past
Though United Arab Emirates have participated in every set of qualifiers for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament since 1980, their campaign for London 2012 was the first time they have been able to successfully clinch a place at the Games. They did previously threaten to reach the competition ahead of Atlanta 1996, when they breezed into the final round only to fall at the last hurdle, a feat they repeated in the qualifying phase for Athens 2004. However, they fared less well in the preliminaries for Sydney 2000 and particularly Beijing 2008, when they exited in the first round of qualifiers.

The present
Qualifying for London 2012 gives UAE their first ever appearance in the Men's Olympic Football Tournament and is yet another feather in the cap of coach Mahdi Ali. The experienced supremo previously led his country to victory in the 2008 AFC U-19 Championship, as well as a place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt the following year. Much of the credit for their Olympic success must go to the close bond between coach and players, many of whom have spent a number of years under Ali's wing.

The future
By no means an 'accidental' or 'shock' qualification success, UAE turned out consistently excellent performances throughout, including victories over AFC heavyweights Australia and Uzbekistan. Coach Ali has described the Olympic competition as “a global event, no less important than the World Cup. You have the world’s best taking part in every sport.” He added that, by making it to London 2012, his players have already cemented their place in Emirati footballing history, though the veteran coach is clearly keen to make a further splash once on British soil.

Facts and figures
Former stars
Fahad Khamees, Abdullah Sultan

Key players
Ahmed Khalil, Hamdan Al Kamali, Omar Abdulrahman, Mohamed Ahmed

Qualifying statistics
UAE qualified for London 2012 after a gruelling campaign that began on 8 March 2011 and finished on 14 March this year. Over this period they played a total of ten games, winning seven and drawing three.

The numbers game
25 – The number of players who appeared for the UAE in the third round of Olympic qualifiers. Abdulaziz Mohamed and Mohamed Ahmed played the highest number of games, with six appearances each.