Ismail Al Hammadi’s extra-time goal not only bagged the UAE a second Gulf Cup of Nations title in six years, it has also netted the young squad a Dhs87 million fortune
The stars returned on Saturday to a hero’s welcome in the UAE following Friday’s fantastic 2-1 victory over Iraq in the final at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa.
Alongside the plaudits, they have been rewarded with riches as HH Sheikha Hind bint Maktoum, wife of the Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, presented them with a jackpot of Dhs25 million for their footballing feats.
And Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Saeed, sons of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the UAE Minister of Finance, are granting Mahdi Ali’s men a further Dhs12 million.
The stars were also lavished with praise by UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan yesterday. He also announced a grant of Dhs50 million for the team.
Sheikh Khalifa greeted them at Al Rawdha Palace in Al Ain, national news agency WAM reported. He told the champions: “The achievement made by the sons of the UAE swept the country with joy.”
Sheikh Khalifa (pictured with the team) said the win reflected well on the entire nation.
“Achievements cannot be made out of nothing,” he said. “Rather, they are made through diligent work, patience and self-belief and, above all, through love to the country, as we all walk the same path and seek to make our state and its pride the ultimate and highest goal.”
Fans on Twitter yesterday were divided on the windfall.
@Sheikhspeer wrote: “What about donating this to promote sports amongst nationals?” But @h4hala posted: “Worth every fils... absolutely. This is 100 per cent MADE IN UAE. Victory by an exceptional Dream Team.”
Meanwhile, one firm is to laud the UAE’s achievement with the latest Apple gadget dedicated to the win. One hundred gold iPhones will be struck by Royal Collection, with the first 30 set aside for the squad if they want to buy them. The Dhs20,000 handsets feature the team logo and players’ names.
“It’ll be holding history in your hand,” said partner Roy Fernandes.