Rob McCaffrey talks sport

Our new columnist on the Pakistan and England Test match


I didn’t realise I lived in such a miserable place. During the recent Pakistan v England cricket Test, the foreign press reported that Dubai Sports City cricket stadium is ‘soulless’, and stuck on an ‘unfinished building site’. ‘No public transport; ticket chaos’: I’m surprised the journos didn’t pack up and go home, they were having such a tough time of it. And there’s me thinking that a three-Test visit to the UAE might be one of the more enticing editorial trips.

Like everyone else, I was staggered by the poor attendance at the match, but rest assured my son and I are going to blast it in the bleachers for the third Test on February 3, with banners and signs for the folks back home.

I don’t know why the foreign press is so negative. The players and journos are staying in fantastic hotels and have been enjoying the city’s golf courses, restaurants, beaches – and nightlife. As for ‘soulless’, I’ve spent some of my happiest times at the Sports City stadium. I even watched my eldest son bowl Kevin Pieterson with a googly when he was net bowling with the England team.

I’ve never lived in a place so infatuated with cricket. I seem to end up chatting about the sport during most Dubai taxi journeys. And there are some amazing local enthusiasts here, such as Gopal Jasapara with the G Force Academy, and Shahzad Altaf Hussein, who brings Durham coach Jeff Cooke over every year to train young players at the Pakistan club. Shahzad is one of the most passionate coaches I’ve ever met, and one of the loveliest people. He is producing unbelievable talent with his Young Talents Cricket Academy, and I felt that the sniffy cricket reporting was a backhanded slap to the work these brilliant people do.

I suppose any place is what you make of it. Dubai has its idiosyncrasies, but then so does any town or city. In a way I’m glad Dubai gets such bad foreign press, because that means there’ll be fewer people coming over here to clog up the city. And if the cricket hacks aren’t satisfied, then maybe the golf and tennis boys and girls will enjoy it more in the coming weeks. See you at the third Test.

Hear Rob’s radio shows on Coast 103.2FM every Friday 11am-2pm live from the Mövenpick JBR (04 449 8888), and every Saturday 6pm-9pm live from the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort (04 399 5000).

And another thing…

You never find too much sympathy in football. It’s a very unforgiving game, but I find myself feeling sorry for Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. The young Spaniard looked like he needed a hug after another erratic performance against bitter rivals Liverpool, which ended in a 2-1 FA Cup defeat for Fergie’s men.

Confidence completely shot and looking like a small boy hurled into a man’s game, I find myself squinting in fear through my fingers every time the ball goes near him. He looks like his shirt’s too big for him and and he needs a few good feeds before doing some weights. At the moment he’s much more Taibi than Schmeichel.

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