In recent years UAE football has enjoyed a number of successes, most recently the national team lifting the Gulf Cup trophy for the second time in its history at the start of this year. Yet the country’s greatest achievement remains its participation in the FIFA World Cup™ Italy 1990, the first time the small Gulf nation had played on the greatest stage of all.
Although they went out in the first round without earning a single point, it was a positive and important experience for the nation’s burgeoning football identity. No one knows this better than former UAE goalkeeper Muhsin Masabah, who played three matches in Italy. Talking to FIFA.com Masabah stressed the importance of playing in a World Cup, discussed his country’s hosting of this year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup and offered advice to UAE’s young players.
FIFA.com: How do you feel about UAE hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2013?
Muhsin Masabah: Hosting the U-17 World Cup is a follow-up to UAE’s hosting of the U-20 World Cup back in 2003. I believe that tournament played a big role in deciding how FIFA looked at UAE. They could see that our facilities and skills had really come on, whether it was our volunteering system or the infrastructure of our stadiums. I think that all the teams are fairly equal this time around, and so I expect to see a lot of excellent footballing performances at UAE 2013.
This will be the fifth international tournament hosted by UAE, following the U-20 World Cup, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and two editions of the FIFA Club World Cup. What does UAE offer to the fans who come for the tournament?
We invite the fans to come here for the tournament. They will find many luxurious services, from transport and accommodation through to volunteer guides and tourist information, and they will derive great benefit from this tournament, socially and otherwise. I believe that UAE’s record shows we have what it takes to organize a successful tournament.
What are UAE’s chances in Group A alongside Brazil, Honduras and Slovakia?
Good, given that UAE will be starting off against Honduras and not Brazil. That’s a positive, so they can get a look at Brazil before facing them in their second match. Their three Group A games will be of huge benefit to them, and give them experience for the future.
You played at Italy 1990. What advice would you give to the players who are taking part in this tournament at such a young age?
My advice would be for them to go out and enjoy it! They mustn’t get obsessed about the results, about winning and losing. They have to enjoy the games and use all their skill and technique. Then they will certainly feel the benefit in the future and the tournament will give them a huge morale boost. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy yourself.
What are your memories of Italy 1990?
Every step of the way was wonderful. Playing in a sporting contest like that means so much, because you get appreciation from the public even when you’re walking in the street. The World Cup is a massive tournament and for me, as a player, it was a chance to gain a lot of experience and pass it on to the younger generations in order to spread the game as far as it could go.
What match do you still remember from Italy?
The game against Germany, because we were up against a number of footballing superstars like Rudi Voller, Lothar Matthaus and Jurgen Klinsmann. They were huge names and we took them on with great spirit, so much so that they even clapped me when I made saves. I still remember them going ahead after 35 minutes and that we got a lot of praise from them because we ended the first-half only two goals behind and got a goal back at the start of the second. They’re unforgettable memories.
How do you see UAE football at the present time and going forward?
I can say that UAE football is on the right track. I reckon we have what it takes to reach the AFC Asian Cup and qualify for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, given the ability of our young players.