It’s been around for 100 years – soccer in the United States, that is, but don’t tell die-hard football fans in Europe or the Middle East. They probably wouldn’t believe you anyway. However, if you get the chance, point them to the US Soccer Federation website instead. It’s all there, a century of history which began with a coming together of like minds at New York City’s Astor House Hotel on April 5, 1913.  

Out of that meeting was born the United States of America Foot Ball Association, and yes, football was foot ball, two separate words. The historic meeting set the foundation for US soccer’s growth and success at all levels, from youth, amateur and all the way up to professional. The organisation changed it’s name and became the US Soccer Football Association in 1945, and then changed once more to its current name in 1974.  

A couple of fascinating tidbits. US soccer was one of the world’s first organizations to be affiliated with FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. When the US hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1994, more than 3.5 million spectators flocked to stadiums in the nine cities staging matches, an attendance record which still stands today. At that same competition, the USA advance beyond the first round for the first time in 64 years with a 2-1 victory over Columbia, an occasion watched by no less than 93,869 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  

Soccer, football, call it what you will, is big business wherever in the world it takes place. And none are more enthusiastic fans than those in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), many of whom follow the big European teams. Major national and international companies are always eager to jump aboard, too, offering huge sponsorship deals in the process.  

First Gulf Bank, one of the major leading banks in the UAE, has just agreed a new partnership with England’s Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) to become the club’s Official Affinity Credit Card Bank Partner. The ground-breaking deal, which is three years in length, will see the launch of the first English football club credit card in the UAE.  

The First Gulf Bank Manchester City Football Club Credit Card is designed with the fan firmly in mind and will provide its holders with a multitude of benefits including special deals on official club merchandise, personalised gifts and souvenirs via the club’s online store.  

Cardholders will also have the chance to win all expense paid trips to watch City play in Manchester and money-can’t-buy experiences including exclusive tours of the Etihad Stadium and visits to the training ground to meet the first team and watch them train.  

Created to cater for City’s ever-growing fan base in the Middle East, the card will also provide a host of local benefits and experiences to cardholders and their families within the UAE, including complimentary kids coaching sessions by official MCFC coaches, special discounts at the official Manchester City School of Football in Abu Dhabi and annual family fun days.  

Card holders can also enjoy exclusive offers on global hotel bookings, access to global airport lounges, complimentary multi-trip travel insurance and buy-one-get-one-free offers at cinemas across the UAE.  

Whether in the US or the UAE, soccer – sorry, football – has surely come a very long way since that far-off meeting in the Astor House Hotel in New York a century ago.