Dubai’s top seven-a-side sports

Celebrates the joys of seven-a-side sports in Dubai


There’s something about sport and the number seven. From American football to basketball and football, the number-seven shirt has traditionally been worn by the team poster-boy, the star players, the top scorers, the crowd’s favourite.

But seven is not just a number on the back of players’ shirts, as exemplified by the Dubai Football Sevens, a seven-a-side football tournament that was founded last year. Though the 2010 event was played at The Sevens (there we go with that number again) and boasted teams of both professionals and star veterans, the 2011 Football Sevens has focused primarily on grass-roots football, with about 300 local amateur teams – kids’, women’s and men’s – taking part.

As the men’s tournament reaches its climax on March 11 and 12 at Jebel Ali, Time Out honours lucky number seven by rounding up the city’s top seven-a-side sports.

The Dubai Football Sevens finals take place on March 11 and 12 at Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence. For info, see


The seven-a-side version of football is a happy medium between the traditional 11-a-side format and smaller five-a-side game. It’s quickly growing in popularity: it’s faster than 11-a-side, yet players have more space than in five-a-side. Practically speaking, sevens is preferable to 11-a-side in that you don’t have to depend on as many people turning up for a match, and pitches are easier to come by in town simply because they’re smaller. Duplays runs a Magnificent 7s (chortle) league at Dubai American Academy, a recreational seven-a-side competition every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and a competitive league on Sundays and Tuesdays. Matches will be played inside as the weather heats up after March.


The sevens format of rugby union (traditionally a 15-a-side sport) has become a hugely popular global franchise. The Dubai leg of the International Sevens Series is one of the biggest events in the city’s sporting and social calendar, and is arguably what inspired the Football Sevens last year. Dubai has seven amateur rugby clubs, all of which field teams in the numerous social and competitive sevens tournaments that take place across the region each year.

Water polo

Whereas rugby and football sevens are effectively spin-offs of the original version of the sport, water polo has always been a seven-a-side game, featuring one goalie and six outfield (if you can call it that) players. The Dubai Camels (not to be confused with the ice hockey team of the same name) are the city’s first and only water polo club. They team train every Monday at 8pm at Kings Dubai (just off Al Wasl Road), and they try to hold social tournaments one Friday each month. Sessions are Dhs40.
Search for ‘Water polo in Dubai’ on Facebook


We were surprised to find that the UAE Handball Federation has been running in Dubai since 1975. The 2011 league started on February 25 and runs until June 26, with nine teams competing in the top division.
Teams are taken from the very same sports clubs that field teams in the Etisalat pro-football league (Al Ahli, Al Wasl, Al Nasr, etc) and, because the league is run locally, anyone interested in playing can approach clubs directly. You’ll need plenty of experience – the league is highly competitive.
For info, call the UAE Handball Federation (04 297 0777)


Two weeks ago (in the February 17 issue) we discovered just how popular netball is in the city. The sport has always been a seven-a-side (every netball team features a goal keeper, goal defence, wing defence, wing attack, centre, goal attack and goal shooter), even in its more modern incarnations, such as Fastnet: a speedier, high-scoring version of the sport introduced in 2008. Though netball is predominantly played by women, men’s teams will be taking part in the Inter-Gulf Netball Championship in Al Ain on March 4-5.

Ultimate frisbee

Invented by peace-loving draft dodgers – hippies, if you will – in the ’60s, Ultimate Frisbee was originally meant to be a non-competitive sport for all. Half a century on, it’s still very much a co-ed sport (seven-a-side, of course), but some people do to take it a lot more seriously than they used to. However, the Duplays Flying Saucers league, which takes place every Monday at the Metropolitan Hotel, upholds the free-lovin’ principles of the ’60s and welcomes men and women of all standards and levels of experience.


Real-life games of the fictional sport of quidditch, played in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, are now held in the US and UK. Teams consist of seven slightly nerdy players who evidently don’t get picked for real sports teams. Happily, the craze of ‘muggle quidditch’ has yet to reach Dubai.

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