AFC Asian Cup: Electric atmosphere awaits India, UAE

Thumping music, animated fans, and nippy weather – the atmosphere at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Sports City was electric ahead of the match between India and host United Arab Emirates.

Indian fans bask in the atmosphere ahead of the AFC Asian Cup match against UAE.   -  Shyam Vasudevan

Thumping music, animated fans, and nippy weather – the atmosphere at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Sports City is simply electric ahead of tonight's AFC Asian Cup crunch encounter between India and host United Arab Emirates.

The ticket-checkers have been kept busy, slogans are being belted out and dozens of cups of black coffee are being guzzled down in the media tribune. We've got all the makings for a cracker of a contest!

Nineteen-year-old student Swapnil, who's flown all the way from Mumbai, is buzzing ahead of the game. “I've got my ticket back to India on the 16th. If India wins today, I'll have to postpone my ticket!” he says, clutching on to his Indian national team scarf. 

The Indian fans have found themselves an unlikely new hero in Sumeet Passi. “Who needs Messi, we have Passi!” they yell as they enter the stadium. They're a varied bunch, all supporting different clubs back at home, but have put that aside to support the Blue Tigers. 

The UAE fans appear to be pretty mellow ahead of the game. The UAE FA has reportedly purchased 5,000 tickets to distribute for free, but an hour to kick-off, Indian fans seem to be outnumbering them. “We will beat India 5-0,” quips 13-year-old Abdullah, who's clad in the national team's jersey.  

Echoing his sentiment is Sinkrini, a staunch Al Ain fan. “UAE will win 2-1 Insha Allah,” he declares, before adding, “We want UAE to top the group and for India to finish second. Both teams must go through,” he says, much to the joy of the Indian fans around him. 

Will both teams go through? Will India win to seal a spot in the knockouts or will the home side take all three points?

All answers in less than 45 minutes from now.

Support Sportstar

Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos