When brothers Jad and Fouad Ghandour were playing football as kids in their home country of France, they never thought that one day they’d be running their own sports centre.
Now, the pair have opened Sportsmania in JLT (located off Sheikh Zayed Road, Exit 29). The outdoor facility, spanning 6,500 square metres, opened for business on Wednesday April 15, 2015. It consists of six five-a-side football pitches, two sand pitches – one for beach soccer and the other for beach volleyball – and two multi-sport courts where basketball, handball or tennis can be played. The facility also provides changing rooms and showers, prayer rooms, wi-fi, a refreshments area and even a large screen so players don’t miss any of the professional sports on TV, either.
Sportsmania operates on an hourly rental basis, so users don’t have to sign up for lengthy memberships or commit to long-term bookings, though special rates are available for recurring reservations. Rental costs start from Dhs20 per person, per hour, and the centre provides all the balls and bibs that players may need. Jad tells us that he opened Sportsmania to create a sociable, all-inclusive sporting environment.
‘At our centre, you might see dad playing football while his wife and daughter play tennis at the same time. This is the atmosphere I wanted to create – a family space.’
Jad hopes that the facility will become a hub for new teams as they begin to launch tournaments and leagues. ‘Our first is going to be a football tournament starting Saturday May 16. We’re going to have up to 32 teams involved,’ he says. ‘We’re working on our second tournament, which will be the Ramadan League, with games to be played once or twice a week. We’re also considering having a mixed team and one night for a female league.’
Jad is keen to see the development of sports other than football, too, so much so that the two beach courts are made up of more than 200 tons of specially imported competition sand and the tennis courts are built to Grand Slam standards. But Jad says operating as a multi-sport facility isn’t easy. ‘The best part about it is that we offer all of these sports in one place, but this was also one of our biggest challenges. If I think about everything financially, it perhaps would have been better for us to just offer football. But that’s not our vision. We want to offer sports for everyone.’
On our visit, our first impression was that the centre certainly has a strong football presence, with the memorabilia on the walls and its six football pitches. But given the game’s popularity, that’s no surprise.
Coaching and training in a variety of sports will also be on offer. The centre has teamed up with leading UAE professional female footballer Nehal Abdel Aziz and UAE national beach soccer star Kemal Ali Sulaiman, who will help to encourage participation from across the community. The centre will host beach volleyball tournaments and Kemal will coach beach soccer. The five-a-side pitches are covered in a high-tech turf that gives the feeling of being on real grass. They’re also fitted with shock absorbing under-layers to lessen joint impact when playing.
But as the days get warmer and fitness fans make plans to head indoors, have the owners also made any special provisions? ‘It’s very difficult to put a cover on an area of this size. If we had just one field, it would be easier, but we don’t. So we’re not going to cover it. This is our first summer; we’ll see how it goes, for now,’ Jad says. Sports fans have the option of playing onsite until 3am and Jad also says that the centre will be offering discounts and free bottles of water to enthusiasts who play throughout the summer.
He and his team are looking forward to hosting the city’s sportsmen and women in the coming months and watching the facility develop. ‘In the evenings I like to go out onto the roof and watch everyone playing different sports. That’s a great feeling; that’s the best,’ he says. Pitches for hire from Dhs20 per person, per hour. Sportsmania, Exit 29, JLT, www.sportsmania.ae (052 242 4789).
More five-a-side pitches in Dubai
Indoor five-a-side with Duplays Play fives at Dubai’s only indoor football dome at Al Wasl Sports Club, near Oud Metha Road. This venue has five small format football pitches with premium grade turf. Dhs500 per person, Dhs3,200 per team. League runs from May 18 to Jun 22. www.duplays.com (04 447 2394).
Ahdaaf Sports Centre Hire a pitch at the new Al Qusais branch to play indoor five-a-side on artificial grass. It has two fields available for hire and the centre is offering 30 percent off pitch rental when you book for 90 minutes, until May 31. Dhs350 (one hour), Al Qusais, www.ahdaaf.ae (04 220 6208).