Olyroos get buried in the desert

We got word that morning about the Olyroos playing the UAE here in Abu Dhabi. Olympic qualifier and all. I was checking my emails and Mo from Aussies aboard had sent an email out to the group. I yelled out to Lynda over breakfast who was getting the boys ready for school- “time to dust out the Aussie Flag and support the boys tonight! The Aussies are in town!”

Such a gathering warms our hearts here. Any excuse to show our spirit and the Halabi’s are in like Flynn. We miss home terribly and any good reason to get out and “be aussie” we support and accept with open arms. Truth be known Soccer (or Football to the driven) is Sasha’s favorite sport, much to the disappointment of his uncles back home in Australia (thats another story). Sasha is our eldest and he plays for the Abu Dhabi Thistle team, a grass roots community sport club that has now grown into some 12 teams with lots of expat kids playing. Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium is an impressive stadium right near where we live in Abu Dhabi. The game was to start at 530 pm, a 5 pm meeting was planned outside the gates.

We waited for Mo and took in the scene. Men with Garb everywhere. Not a woman is sight except Lynda, my wife, a die hard Carlton blue fan. I pulled out my Richmond hat (thats another story). The game was free to Emirate nationals. They came in their droves. The Emirate’s were flooding in like a massive sandstorm. Men that is- and some young kids- boys. This was certainly not the MCG. We look to 3 young lads from Dubai who stick out like a mobile bright pyramid- all dressed in their green and gold as sheiks….quite funny. We chat to them and try and meet up later.

We met up with Mo and then proceeded to the A class seats. Here we were met by a massive road block, and they would not let us in. We were told to go to gate 28, where they were herding in the Aussies in the cheap seats, ohh well we were all together I thought. We see the lads from Dubai, they are behind a huge flag and there are maybe 200 Aussie supporters- and about 4 other women- aussies. Lynda is relieved. One lass, is a girl from Brisbane whose dad was a mad tiger supporter. She said he has not been well for many years. I know that feeling.

In the first half we are giving the Aussies our support, but we are not getting much support back from the players. A few thrusts here and there but it is the UAE dominating, sweeping down the flanks in unison. In front us they take a short corner and a player follows up on the goal line to slot in a major that would have made Daicos proud. The crowd erupts and lots of very fat men start dancing. We hang our heads in shame.  One of the boys from Dubai yells out “Come on bury these poofs!”. One of the young ladies behind us says you can be jailed for something like that. Lynda and I start laughing to ourselves, funny but very true.

The second half ensues and it is nip and tuck. The aussies have come out firing, but they are firing blanks. There is no penetration and they are more cleverer ,and at times,  sneakier. Our youngest Jack says “gee the goalie is good” and he is, saving everything. We are waiting for the magic spark but the sparks flying are the hordes of blackberry mobile phones flashing around the stadium that the fat Emirati men are waving. This must be symbolic of something I think.

Towards the end of the game there are many U.A.E players who have gone down, with of all things cramp- it is a bit of a joke really. Playing for time. 3 boys are carried of on stretchers for bloody cramps!  The Aussies are frustrated and the lass behind me says “They have been doing that all day ump”. Its a ref darling I mutter to myself but I see the humour. The know they have  it in the bag and they are milking our pain. Its not good. Jack gets interviewed by a journalist and he asks him how he feels we lost the game….”It is the goalie” he says, ” he’s amazing”. Sasha is disappointed as am I. The Emiratis rejoice and so they should.

The Aussies got buried in the desert. As we navigate the hordes home we kick the sand of our shoes and weave our way through the throngs of men with long white garb on. They were better than us on the night.



About Haje Halabi

Born in Bright Victoria, went overseas for 2 years and stayed 18. Tiger tragic, father of 2 fine young men, teacher and obsessed with sport and the good it can bring.


  1. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    This is a great boost for the Emiratis who seem to do well at the youth level.

    Is Lucas Neill getting a kick for Abu Dhabi in the UAE League?

    Will never forget seeing Barclenona win the World Club champs at that stadium…
    Messi & Henry. Magic combination.

  2. Haje Halabi says

    Great boost for Emiratis, but a massive blow to Australia. Big question marks on our team but a lot of players were not released from professional clubs.
    Lucs is doing Ok but not setting the world on fire, he remains a very important player for Al Jezira.
    Saw him at the ambassadors Australia day function and he was enjoying some good aussie steak.
    Yes incredible re Barcelona at Abu Dhabi- all the Barc boys were there and it was a massive week or two of soccer.

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