After my significant other, my friends and my job (note the carefully considered order there), my fourth great Dubai love is… football.
I couldn’t have predicted the sport would feature so high on my list before I got here. But, as fate would have it, I ended up sharing an apartment with a woman who used to play for Scotland in her teens; she wanted to carry on playing and I, well, wanted to be on her team. So, at 26 years young, I kicked a football for the first time. After just one hour-long session at the old Dubai Country Club (RIP), I was game. Why had I wasted all those years playing netball when this existed – a sport that doesn’t involve that dreaded, dizzying pivot?
So, last October, following a two-year hiatus, myself and Marize, another member of the original team, decided it was time to get back on the pitch to form a new side. Within a week, that’s just what we had – and what a motley crew. There’s Nadejda, the spa manager from Bulgaria, who I’d crown most likely to rant (and I mean rant) at the ref. Then there are Natacha and Kristina, the Danish sisters: one a personal trainer whose handball experience means she wins ‘man’ of the match most weeks for her sticky goal hands, the latter a fancy clothing boutique manager. There’s also Mille, the other Dane, who sports pink socks and boots and who, as I discovered when I forgot my key a few weeks ago, happens to live in the apartment above mine.
Speaking of neighbours, there’s Pauline from France, who also lives in our complex – she took her first-ever footie kick last season and has come on leaps and bounds since. Sofia from Sweden bust her knee early on, but managed to return and hit the loopiest, most beautiful goal of our team’s (albeit short) history last week, while Celeste from South Africa works at Ferrari World and certainly has the fastest mouth. Marize, her countrywoman, is the team’s captain and lawyer (useful, considering the levels of backchat…), and is perhaps the most organised woman in the UAE. That just leaves the new American, Maggie, who’s down from the first division after her mostly pro-team disbanded; Kaye the Londoner, who claims to be unfit but is actually our fastest player; and me.
Where else in the world would you find an amateur seven-a-side team made up of seven nationalities (and I did say amateur…)? Do we play like girls? Yes. But I wouldn’t say that to us when we’re on the pitch. Especially if Nadejda’s within earshot. And to think, a few months ago, Marize and I didn’t know a single one of them.
Becky Lucas is our editor. If she doesn’t tell us what the score was, we know not to ask.