Our columnist Tom Bushell looks at this sandy sport
Let’s think back to a time when Dubai was literally the sandpit we lovingly refer to today. Pearl diving was at the heart of daily life, as was trade on the creek, but there was one other activity that kept Dubaians busy. Beach soccer.
That’s right: Dubai may well have hosted the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2009, and the Beach Intercontinental Cup last autumn, but it all started way back when. In fact, as I was told by Dubai Sports Council this week, beach soccer has been played for more than 40 years in Dubai. And why not? We have some of the best beaches in the world. This form of football is one of the best to watch. Spectator-wise, you’re close to the action. It’s fast, and the skill on show beats the 11-a-side game hands down.
It’s great news then, that there will be plenty more action to come for us. The Sports Council has signed up to the Intercontinental Cup for another five years, and it will now be based at Dubai Festival City (no more battling traffic at JBR to get there), while more tournaments like the recent President’s Cup at Al Mamzar beach will take place too. Well worth a watch.
Last week I was at the Super Cup: the curtain raiser to every UAE football season. It’s the same as the Community Shield game in England, and involves the previous year’s league winners playing the cup winners – which this time meant Al Ain and Al Jazira squaring up at Zabeel stadium. More than 8,000 fans made it a sell-out and it was superb.
If you’re a football fan, and miss that match-day feeling, I’d recommend attending some local games here. I just hope the attendances stay reasonably high for most matches this season – it really does add to the experience. Tom Bushell hosts Sport On 7 on City 7 TV (Mon 8pm) and is Arabian Radio Network’s head of sport. He is also a panelist on The Grill (Sat 5pm-8pm at Barasti).
And another thing…
Fair play to Manchester City. They’ve spent an awful lot of money in recent years, but with news that the Dhs1.2 billion Etihad training complex is all set to be built in Manchester, they’ll soon be producing home-grown talent at this footballing haven. The club call it ‘the most important day in their history’. In 15 years’ time, you may well see why.