Forget the major events, even you can play on these pitches
Time and again Dubai has proven its worth when it comes to hosting large-scale sporting events. Whether it’s the Dubai Rugby Sevens, test cricket, the World Cup at Meydan or the recent FINA Swimming Championships, proceedings seem to go like clockwork, everyone has a good time, and there’s always some welcome pomp and ceremony thrown in for good measure.
The city’s successful track record owes much to the sporting venues in which these events take place, many of which have been specifically designed for the purpose. However, sporting showpieces take place but once a year, so what happens to them the rest of the time?
Quite a lot, it seems. Many are open to the public, offering great facilities for individuals and teams, as well as facilitating grass-roots development that is essential to the UAE’s growth as a sporting nation. We’ve taken a look at the two best venues around town, what they have to offer, and what’s in store for the New Year.
What’s there? Stadia: The jewel in Dubai Sports City’s crown is the 25,000-seat Dubai International Cricket Stadium, which has hosted four international cricket series and is currently the Pakistani cricket team’s surrogate home. Sports City representatives also claim the stadium could host football and other team sports, so if Qatar needs help in 2022…
Golf: The 18-hole Els Club has been open since 2008, although the permanent clubhouse is in its final stages of construction. Practise your swing at the Butch Harmon School of Golf, with prices from Dhs600 including a 30-minute warm-up, 50-minute lesson and an hour on the range. For info, see www.butchharmondubai.com.
Cricket: The latest arrow in Sports City’s quiver is the ICC Global Cricket Academy, which opened in October 2010. The state-of-the-art centre offers cricket coaching for kids and adults, from amateurs to pros, and even features practise wickets with different soil and grass to recreate the conditions of England, Australia and the subcontinent. A nets session cost Dhs350 for one hour on turf. Call 04 448 1355 for info.
What’s in store? The annoying thing about financial meltdowns is that it delays the construction of exciting projects like Sports City’s 60,000-seat outdoor stadium for rugby, football and athletics, and a 10,000-seat indoor arena for hard-court games, ice hockey and concerts. Sports City will also be home to the Dubai International Hockey Stadium, which will boast a full-size Astroturf pitch. No one’s letting on when these venues will open, but we’re assured it will happen. Eventually. While you wait, catch the ICC World Cricket League (Division 2) on April 8-15, as well as warm-up matches before the 2011 ICC World Cup. There are also three concerts planned for February, April and May. Keep an eye on Time Out for info.
What’s there? Cricket: The ICC Global Cricket Academy might provide the best cricket facilities in town, but the pitches here are good enough for Dubai’s Cricketers Club, HSBC Cricket, Dubai Lions, Arabian Cricket and the Emirates League (www.arabiancricket.com). Those looking to polish their offspin can hire the nets and grass wicket for Dhs160 (off-peak), or Dhs300 (peak).
Football: Kids wanting to hone their headers can enrol in the Arsenal Soccer School (www.playthearsenalway.com/dubai), with training sessions at 5.30pm Sunday to Wednesday and 9am on Fridays and Saturdays, with games on Sundays. Bigger kids (read: adults) play in the Dubai Amateur Football League, Dubai’s biggest amateur sports league (www.dubaifootball.com).
Netball: There’s a thriving netball scene in the city. Dubai Netball League has about 23 teams playing across three divisions, with all games taking place at The Sevens. Joining a team costs Dhs450 for the season. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.dubainetballleague.com.
Tennis: One of Dubai’s most established tennis schools, Dorell Tennis (www.tennisdubai.com), is based at the Sevens. You can also hire a court for Dhs60 per hour (7am-5pm) or Dhs80 per hour (5pm-11pm).
Gaelic football: The Celts practise both Gaelic football and hurling at The Sevens. Training takes place every Monday and Thursday. Interested? See www.dubaicelts.com.
What’s in store? Aside from next year’s Dubai Rugby Sevens and the ongoing events above, The Sevens will host the Dubai Pet Show (www.dubaipetshow.com), the Hercules Trophy international team-building event (www.hercules-trophy.ae), and the HSBC Festival of Rugby in February. In March, the Middle East Schools 15-a-side Rugby Cup comes to town, as does the Gulf Gaelic Games – a huge event in Dubai’s amateur sporting calendar.