Sports Monks

Evolution of Football in the United Arab Emirates

Football in UAE is one of the most followed sport with the craze increasing every single day. The youth of the country is especially attracted to the game with a dream to play for the national team someday.  United Arab Emirates Football Association is the body governing the sport in the country. Most home games have been played at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi with Abu Dhabi’s Al Jazira Stadium and Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain as other venues.


The UAEFA was established in 1971 with them attaining FIFA affiliation in 1974. Focusing on junior age-group football, there is the U-17 and U-23 team coming out from the grassroots of the nation. The juniors’ national team won the Gulf Cup in 2006 and 2009, the youth and juniors national teams qualified for the AFC Asian Cups finals in 2010, Winning the 2nd Gulf U-23 championship in Doha 2010. The team turned around in the 1992 Asian Cup and finished fourth in the tournament. UAE also won the Arabian Gulf Cup twice in 2007 when they were the hosts and in 2013.

Also Read: Arabian Gulf Cup 2019: Group A Preview

Domestic League/Tournaments

As many as six domestic tournaments leagues are played in the UAE, but only three have sustained the test of time. The Emir Cup, now called the UAE President’s Cup is the oldest of the lot. The recent tournaments the Etisalat Emirates Cup and the UAE Super Cup are the ones functioning at the moment. The tournaments which have been stopped being conducted are the Federation Cup, the UAE Vice Presidents Cup and the UAE FA Cup.

AFC Asian Cup History

UAE made its first appearance in AFC Asian Cup way back in 1980. Two more first-round exists followed in 1984 and 1988 before they made it to the fourth position in 1992. However, they played their best football in the 1996 event when it had its best-ever season. They topped the group and won against Iraq and Kuwait to set up a final with Saudi Arabia. It was a draw in the first 90 minutes of the game. UAE finally lost in penalty-shootouts.

The next best outing that they had in the AFC Asian Cup was in 2015. They were drawn in Group C along with Iran, Qatar and Bahrain. Defeating Qatar (4-1) and Bahrain (2-1), they qualified for the knockout stage. They defeated Japan in penalties in the quarter-finals to make a move into the last 4. They lost to hosts Australia 2-0 in the semifinals and finished the tournament on the third place beating Iraq 3-2.

UAE’s World Cup History

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The UAE squad for 1990 FIFA World Cup. (Photo Source: (

The senior team made its first and only World Cup appearance so far in 1990. It lost all its three matches against West Germany, Colombia and Yugoslavia. Since then, UAE has been looking for its second qualification. They have won 43 games in World Cup qualifiers, losing 20 but still haven’t found a place in World Cups. 

Also Read: Arabian Gulf Cup 2019: Group B Preview

UAE Women’s Football 

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Photo Source: (

Women’s football in the country is a work in progress. The team is yet to qualify for the Women’s World Cup having competed in the AFC Asian Cup qualification in 2017 but failed to reach the next round. Houreya Tahiri is the coach of the senior and the U-19 team as well. The current captain of the national team is goalkeeper Nora Al Mazrouie. They are yet to make an entry into any major women’s tournament. Progress has been slow by the UAEFA in developing the game since its initiation as they have yet to establish a women’s football league. None of the professional FA clubs in the UAE have an established women’s team on a consistent basis due to lack of incentive by the federation. 

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