Living the Football Dream! (part 2)

Strictly speaking, you should be continuing reading from my previous post … but if you want to spare yourself the reading and feel slightly lost as to what I might be talking about … you’re absolutely welcome to start reading here :).

I ended my previous post at the end of the match for 3rd place. What I hadn’t yet realised was that the fun had hardly begun I had yet to see the closing ceremony and of course, the grande finale match itself between African champions TP Mazembe from Congo and Inter Milan from Italy. 

But before that … the closing ceremony. And what a spectacular ceremony it was. There was the usual FIFA anthem, for which a few children came onto the pitch and help up two yellow and blue flags and we were all asked to stand up (Most of us were standing anyway). Then the interactive wall (I don’t know what else to call it!) that usually displays adverts first became  a calm blue colour, then became a flowing portrait of sand dunes as a row of bright white lasers treated us to an impressive spectacle of light, moving in time to an inspiring, resounding tune. All this was accompanied by the bold sound of drumming on large drums by masked men. As the music got louder and louder and we cheered louder and louder we noticed amidst the fanfare that the drumsticks had become glowing torches, alight with fire! The sight of glowing torches being banged by masked men in time to resounding music is something I will never ever forget. It was an incredibly impressive sight to behold.

Meanwhile, a few boys clad in traditional kanduras brought out the flags of the competing teams and the FIFA emblem and laid them onto the pitch. On the screen was a large, billowing flag of the UAE. The boys then laid out the flags of TP Mazembe and Inter Milan next to each other and formed a circle around them. 

And then the fireworks went off. 

The timing could not have been more accurate. Sparkling comets of green, red and gold shot into the sky from above and showered us with light. It was something I’d only ever seen on TV … to me, this closing ceremony was just as good as the one that happened in South Africa in July. As I watched firework after colourful firework exploded into the darkness, I realised how far our good old Abu Dhabi had come from being an unrecognisable place on the map to a global sporting destination commendable enough to host a tournament like this one. I don’t think our beautiful city has ever made me prouder than it did that memorable night. It was the most humbling moment I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

Then the player lineup gor the upcoming match was introduced and I was surprised to see how many Inter players I was unfamiliar with (I didn’t even know Marco Materazzi still played football!). There was the usual formalities before the match kicked off: the shaking of hands, the child escorts, the coin toss, referees being introduced, and then the action began.

This matched proved to be far more exciting than the previous one and I was either standing or sitting at the very edge of my seat the whole time. It was quite funny to hear some of the comments being made by the fans around me … there was this emotional Italian guy behind me who sounded as if it were torture for him to watch an Inter player’s shot go off target. Pained cries of’ ‘Mileeto, Mileeeto!’ rang in my ears every time Diego Milito missed the goal. I struggled to contain my laughter, but I knew well enough not to giggle out loud as Italians take their football very, very seriously. Believe me, the last person I wanted sitting behind me was an angry Italian football fan. And then there was this clueless Pakistani dude (I’m sorry but some Pakistanis just know nothing about football) who moaned “Itne chance mil rahe hain! Kyun naheen score karte?” [They are getting so many chances! Why aren’t they scoring?] every time a Mazembe player attempted to make it past the Inter defence. What he did not appear to know was that Inter have at their disposal some of the best defenders and goalies today, including Julio Cesar and Javier Zanetti, who would defend their team to the death no matter how hard the Congolese tried. That chatterbox almost ruined the entire match for me; he’s lucky I didn’t slap him!

In any case, Inter Milan became, effectively, the best club in the world when they beat TP Mazembe 4:2 to become the Club World Cup champions of 2010. The rest you can read on the FIFA website here.

The awarding ceremony was equally impressive … did you know that the confetti and glitter that ‘magically’ appears when the trophy is handed to the captain actually comes from these massive canon-like confetti sprayers behind the stage? And also that the stage is in two halves which are swiftly assembled to for a platform. It was an eye-opener for me in terms of football technicalities.

All in all, it was an exhilarating night, one that I will fondly tell me grandchildren about years from now. I am humbled to have watched history being made. And, of course, a mighty round of applause to the officials at FIFA (LOC) and Zayed Sports City for putting on such a spectacular show of world-class football. Finally, I cannot adequately express how incredibly proud I am of my beautiful city: I love you Abu Dhabi from the deepest depths of my heart.

Until next time … which will be a while from now since I need to nurse my poor fingers from the excessive typing! 😉

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