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The National Sport of United Arab Emirates is Soccer.

Soccer in the UAE is not just a sport, but a way to bring together diverse communities and nationalities.

To learn more about sports culture in the United Arab Emirates, read our article about the most popular sports in UAE.


#1 History of Soccer

  • 1971: Formation of the United Arab Emirates Football Association (UAEFA) to govern and manage football in the country.
  • 1972: UAEFA becomes a member of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
  • 1973: First season of the UAE Football League (now known as the Arabian Gulf League) takes place.
  • 1980: The UAE national team makes its debut in the AFC Asian Cup tournament.
  • 1990: UAE qualifies for the FIFA World Cup for the first time, competing in the 1990 World Cup held in Italy.
  • 2007: The United Arab Emirates hosts the FIFA U-20 World Cup, showcasing their commitment to the development of soccer.
  • 2013: UAE wins its second Gulf Cup title, strengthening their status as a competitive soccer nation.

#2 Culture and Traditions

Soccer plays a significant role in the United Arab Emirates’ cultural identity, as it brings together diverse communities and nationalities. People from various backgrounds rally behind their favorite teams, fostering unity and strengthening bonds.

Festivals, rituals, and events associated with soccer are common in the UAE. The Arabian Gulf League, as well as AFC Champions League matches featuring Emirati clubs, are enthusiastically followed by fans. Moreover, international tournaments involving the UAE national team, such as the AFC Asian Cup and the Gulf Cup, garner widespread attention.

The public eagerly supports charity soccer matches organized for various causes, while youth soccer academies and grassroots programs continue to develop future generations of soccer stars. Soccer in the UAE transcends mere sport, becoming an integral part of the nation’s social fabric.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment

πŸ“• Rules & Gameplay

  • Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
  • Objective: Each team tries to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
  • Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
  • Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
  • Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.

βš™οΈ Equipment & Gear

  • Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
  • Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
  • Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
  • Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
  • Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.

#4 Modern Development of Soccer

The evolution and adaptation of soccer in contemporary United Arab Emirates are marked by the emergence of professional leagues, investment in world-class facilities, and the nurturing of homegrown talent. The Arabian Gulf League consistently attracts viewers and top regional players, contributing to a global soccer landscape.

The UAE has also embraced technological advancements that have influenced the sport, such as the implementation of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in its domestic league, ensuring fair play and accurate officiating. The country’s commitment to soccer infrastructure includes top-notch stadiums, training facilities, and promotion of sports science and analytics.

Recent decades have seen the rise of Emirati players on the international stage, with several pursuing careers in foreign leagues. Concurrently, women’s soccer has gained momentum in the UAE, with the launch of women’s football leagues and the participation of the women’s national team in regional and international competitions.

#5 Soccer and the Olympics

Soccer has a long-standing history in the Olympic Games, with the men’s competition debuting in 1900 and the women’s contest in 1996. The United Arab Emirates has yet to make its mark in Olympic soccer, but the nation’s progress in other international competitions exemplifies their potential for future success.

The Olympics provides an unparalleled platform for soccer, boosting its global recognition. As the competition allows countries to showcase their finest talent, it often leads to the discovery of new soccer stars, who go on to achieve illustrious careers beyond the Games.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Adnan Al Talyani: Regarded as one of the best Emirati players of all time, Al Talyani represented the UAE national team between 1983 and 1997. He ranks as the top scorer for the national team, also participating in the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
  2. Majed Hassan: An influential midfielder, Hassan has been a crucial part of the UAE national team. His performances in international tournaments, such as the AFC Asian Cup, have earned him widespread recognition.
  3. Ali Mabkhout: As a prolific striker, Mabkhout has scored numerous goals for the UAE national team, becoming one of the top forwards in Asian soccer. He has excelled in competitions like the AFC Asian Cup and Gulf Cup.
  4. Omar Abdulrahman: A creative attacking midfielder, Abdulrahman’s performances for both club and country have garnered attention from international clubs. He has also represented the UAE in various global competitions.

#7 Where to watch Soccer

  • Abu Dhabi Sports and Dubai Sports: Leading sports channels providing extensive coverage of the Arabian Gulf League, regional, and international soccer matches.
  • beIN Sports: A popular choice for fans seeking to watch international leagues and competitions, such as the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, and World Cup.
  • Live in UAE: Experience thrilling live soccer matches at notable venues like Zayed Sports City Stadium (Abu Dhabi), Al Maktoum Stadium (Dubai), and Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium (Al Ain).

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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