The UAE national soccer team tonight returned to action for the first time in 167 days, playing what eventually turned into an unfriendly “friendly”, in Riyadh, against Trinidad & Tobago.
As I have mentioned, the UAE national team has become one of my favorite sports teams, so I made my way down to the Caffe di Roma shop, down on the ground floor of the apartment tower, to watch the match on TV with 25 guys in kanduras.
And the match ended in far more dramatic fashion than I anticipated.
The Emiratis were all over the Trinidadians for about 50 minutes, holding the ball, doing tricks, making the “we play like Brazil” comment sometimes heard here seem not as silly as it often does.
It got up to 3-0, and T&T is generally not an awful team (and their captain, Kenwyne Jones, plays for Stoke City, in the Premier League), and T&T became, I believe, embarrassed. Or perhaps had been instructed (or decided internally) to make the game less fluid and more, ahem, rugged.
The rest of the 90 minutes was T&T guys barging over Emiratis, or pushing them aside, just handling them roughly.
But the worst was yet to come.
Amer Abdulrahman is not related to the UAE standout Omar Abdulrahman, but he has a similar game and diminutive frame.
Amer is one of those guys who can hold the ball in a phone booth, and he had made a couple of the T&T guys look silly, though he was not alone in that, because the Emiratis really had their technical stuff going full blast.
Eventually, a T&T substitute named Kevan George crashed in to little Amer Abdulrahman, which was bad enough, but as George arrived he had his right elbow up — and, worse, he swung it toward the left side of Amer’s jaw, where it made an alarming impact, as Amer’s snapping head (seen on replay) indicated.
George than wrapped his arm around Amer, and all but threw him to the ground, and his arm/hand struck Amer’s face again.
It should have been a red card. It was a public mugging. How the referee missed it was not clear; he was maybe 10 yards off. It was a blow that could have broken Amer’s jaw — and he soon after left the match. And I was annoyed that such thuggish behavior could go unpunished.
Turns out, the punishment was simply delayed.
With the UAE getting pushed around, T&T rallied to make it 3-3, and because this is a four-team tournament, a winner was needed to send someone into the final against New Zealand, and because it was such a hot night in Saudi Arabia they went directly to penalties.
It got up to 7-6, in the shootout, when who should step up the spot? None other than the guilty-as-hell Kevan George.
By now, I was on the couch in my own apartment, having figured out the match was being shown on a station I get, and as George stepped up, I said: “That’s him! If there is any justice in the world, he will miss this!”
And George’s fairly feeble attempt was pushed away by goaltender Ali Kasheif, and the UAE was in the final.
And God is in his heaven, the sun rises in the the east and karma, still, is a bitch.