The United Arab Emirates (UAE) may not have the footballing heritage of a country like Brazil, but this football-mad nation is tremendously proud to host the latest edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. This will be the fifth FIFA tournament organised by the UAE, after hosting the 2003 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the 2009 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010. Although horse and camel racing are part of the UAE's tradition, football is the leading sport in the Emirates today.
The UAE became a member of FIFA in 1972, barely a year after the country was established, and joined the Asian and Arab confederations in 1974. The UAE hosted the sixth Gulf Cup in 1982, the 12th Gulf Cup in 1994 and the 17th in 2007. In 1996, the UAE staged the AFC Asian Cup, an honour they carried off with typical aplomb.
Although the national side has been around for less than 40 years, the All Whites can boast some impressive results. They were runners-up at the Gulf Cup 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. In Egypt 2009, UAE reached the quarter-finals before losing to Costa Rica after extra time. Without doubt, however, their most impressive achievement to date was in qualifying for the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™.
Roll of honour
Did you know?
The United Arab Emirates are a group of seven microstates (emirates). The UAE was formerly known as the Trucial States following a peaceful treaty signed under British rule last century.
The UAE Federation was founded in 1971 from the merger of six Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain and Ajman. Ras Al Khaimah joined a year later in 1972 as the seventh emirate. Abu Dhabi is by far the largest emirate, comprising of over 80 per cent of the 83,600 square kilometres that make up the UAE.
The UAE boasts a population of 5 million, with Abu Dhabi and Dubai accommodating 1,900,000 and 1,600,000 residents respectively. The development of the petrol industry in the 1970s saw a huge influx to the country. Today, the population comprises: 19 per cent Emiratis, 23 per cent other Arabs and Iranians and 50 per cent south Asians. The vast majority of the population is Muslim (96 per cent).
Arabic is the official language but English is widely spoken.
Location & Geography
The UAE lies on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and the Sultanate of Oman to the southeast, while Qatar lies to the northwest.
Most of the territory is made up of desert with rich sources of petrol which have been exploited since the 1960s, particularly in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. More than 35% of the annual federal budget comes from oil and gas. The climate hardly varies: hot (between 35º and 45º) and humid (between 60 and 100%) in summer and moderate (15º to 25º) but dry in winter.