What is it about the emirate that attracts the world’s top players?
Dubai attracts sports stars with an undeniable magnetism. Maybe it’s the weather, the facilities or the ‘can-do’ attitude of the city (or a positive combination of all three) that keeps the world’s elite coming back to stay, play and set up lasting sporting legacies and academies. We caught up with some of the biggest names in the business who have broken records, established enterprises and inspired thousands, to asked them, well, why Dubai?
The 29-year-old Serbian former world number one tennis player is a regular at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and a resident of the city.
I have residency here in Dubai, but as a professional, I travel around the world for 11 months of the year, so whenever I have time I come and visit. I play the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships here in February so I’m in the city about three or four times a year. There’s so much I like about Dubai – the weather, the people. I love what the city has to offer; shopping, restaurants, the beach. I have a lot of fans here. Winning my first tournament at the Habtoor Grand was one of the highlights of the beginning of my professional career. I always have great memories of coming back here to play. I played my finals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships aged 18 or 19, so it’s a very special place for me. I had great beginnings and it brings me back good memories.
Chad le Clos
The 22-year-old Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games champion from South Africa launched his new swim- and surf-wear line, Ready to Roar, at Atlantis The Palm this month.
I’ve come to Dubai about eight or nine times, maybe more. It’s a very special place to me. Winning the [World Short Course Championships] when I was 18 years old in 2010 was a big milestone in my life and to be the youngest world champion ever, and to win it here at the Hamdan Sports Complex, was amazing. Maybe that’s what kick-started my relationship with Dubai. I come here every year for many weeks at a time. I have a great relationship with the federation here, the fans and the people. The training facilities here are excellent, I wish we had these kinds of facilities in South Africa. I chose to launch my swim and surf brand here for those reasons.
The former Liverpool and England footballer is a long-time visitor to Dubai and has played the sport professionally here. He has met with local team Al Wasl Football Club and has even considered a career in the city.
I’ve been coming to Dubai since 1987, before Dubai was Dubai. I came with Liverpool and I played against Celtic in the Dubai Super Cup. I love the weather – my family and I come every year. From a playing perspective, it’s the weather in the city that is a massive draw. If you look at a player’s timetable, they get little breaks every now and then – they get around four or five days off. So if they’re here, they’ll get time off in good weather. I would consider a career in management again, and maybe in Dubai. The last time I was in the city I met with Al Wasl and I had a kick about with the team, so yes, it is of course something that I would consider.
The Swiss tennis player is currently world number two and will be playing in Dubai at the International Premier Tennis League later this month.
I really enjoy playing in Dubai. I’ve been coming back to the tournament for so many years and I have seen it grow, which is great. When I’m not in Switzerland, I spend a lot of time in Dubai so I sort of consider this my home tournament too.
Former New Zealand Rugby player, who frequently supports the Dubai Rugby Sevens.
Dubai is as good a city as anywhere to host sport, particularly because of its resources – the weather’s good, it’s convenient for both southern hemisphere and northern hemisphere teams, and people here love sport. We see this at the Sevens, the tennis and the golf.
Italy’s World Cup-winning captain is a frequent visitor to, and a big fan of the emirate.
I’m very happy here in Dubai. I’m here to learn and I very much see my future here. I like to be outside my home country because I can experience new cultures. Can you imagine, before I arrived in Dubai, I couldn’t speak English, but I started to learn here in Dubai.
Winner of the three cycling Grand Tours, the Vuelta a Espana, Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, Vincenzo will be participating in the Dubai Tour in February 2015.
Dubai is a beautiful city, I really enjoy the weather. I also enjoy spending time with my family here. I will start the new season by participating in the Dubai Tour with my team, Astana. It will be a good way to start the season. Then I might take part in some of the other races in Europe. I took part in the very first Dubai Tour and it was a tough race. The time trial in particular was quite difficult, but there will be changes in the new edition, which will be even more difficult.
Record-breaking British explorer and mountaineer Adrian Hayes has climbed Mount Everest, trekked to the South and North Poles and completed a 44-day, 1,600km journey on foot (and camel) across the Arabian Desert’s Empty Quarter. He lives in Dubai.
The sporting facilities in Dubai are second to none, so the ability to get really fit is high. Plus we are close the mountains of the UAE and Oman – the place is actually excellent for mountain training. Above all, though, Dubai has a ‘can do’ attitude, which rubs off on everyone who lives here.’
The former head of the Fifa Technical Committee is a regular visitor to the city and will be attending the Host Cities summit on November 26-27.
The weather during at least eight or nine months of the year is perfect for sports. Dubai has an open policy to receive all kinds of sports-related activities. It’s not only games, but also seminars, courses and other kinds of activities that the city promotes. Dubai is a world leader when it comes to attracting top players. I have no doubt that Dubai is 100 percent prepared to hold more and more world-class events, just as the emirate has been doing in recent years.
The former premiership and Mali footballer has recently opened his own KAFO footballing Academy in Dubai.
When I started playing football in China, Dubai seemed like a good place for my family to stay so I could come back and see them. Pretty soon it started to grow in our minds as somewhere we could settle. The genesis of the KAFO Academy was that I saw in Dubai that there was a passion for football but a lack of skills. There was a big difference between what was happening in Europe and here. I wanted to bring in more professionalism. We develop kids’ skills to the maximum. They must respect the rules and we ask them to think for themselves. We don’t talk to them like babies, but adults. In my career the managers I have respected have been the ones who have asked me questions about my game, not the ones who think they have all the answers. At KAFO, sportsmanship is key, you must always shake hands after the game. If you win but your behaviour is not good then I think you have actually lost. The people of Dubai, and the kids, understand that. And that is why, for me, Dubai was the perfect place for us to start up.’
Founder of Cheer Dubai and therefore the man behind our cover shoot…
Bring It On came out during my senior year of high school. It was the first time I saw male cheerleaders. I’ve always loved dance, gymnastics and performing, so in August 2001 I joined the cheerleading team at college and did it for seven years in the US. I started Cheer Dubai in March. We have the Emirates American Football League Season Opener Games at Sports City, and we aspire to be a recognised performance group in the UAE.