Rob McCaffrey talks sport

Our columnist on touch sports stars in Dubai

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What’s going on with the weather? We’d just finished our Soccer Saturdays show at the Habtoor Grand recently when we had to run for cover because raindrops the size of golf balls were suddenly pounding down on us. It’s been sandy, windy, humid and generally mixed and, although I’m not complaining, it inevitably led to comparisons with back home, which for me is the UK. And not just about the weather.

I contend that if you can’t become a professional sportsman or woman growing up in the UAE, you won’t be able to do it anywhere. The weather, the facilities, the coaching, the outdoor life mean that kids have the best of the best in terms of opportunities. An unseasonal drop of warm rain shouldn’t prevent outdoor sports, it should provide welcome relief.

When I was 13, I was once carried from a football pitch suffering frostbite. My face had frozen, and that agonising first few minutes under a hot shower were necessary for a swift recovery. At that moment I wasn’t really concerned with my performance – I was concentrating on survival.

Sodden, freezing, muddy pitches. Massive puddles and strips that become wet-through after two minutes. Biting cold. It’s a wonder Europe produces as many footballers and rugby players as it does. Even cricketers wear three sweaters in April.

But when I watch the footballing talent here in Dubai, I sometimes wonder if they have it too easy. Tough conditions probably breed tougher footballers. Nowadays you don’t have to be physically tough because there’s no tackling in the game anyway, but you have to be mentally tough if you’re to compete at the highest level. Does a freezing Saturday afternoon on the continent breed more fight than a warm Thursday in Dubai? I don’t know.

What I do know is the boys from the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence are off to Madrid this summer, and the E-Sports boys are off to Cardiff, both to take part in football tournaments against the best in the world. Maybe then we’ll find out.
Hear Rob’s radio shows on Coast 103.2FM every Friday 11am-2pm, and every Saturday 6pm-9pm live from the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 399 5000).

And another thing…

It never ceases to amaze me just how passionate football fans can be. My daft Celtic pal Jim Muldoon was wearing the green and white shirt last week, sitting alongside his son Ryan to watch the Rangers versus Celtic game. His poor wife Linda had been banished for the afternoon. ‘She’s watched four Old Firm games in 15 years, and each time we’ve lost,’ moaned Jim. ‘So she’s not allowed to be there! The other day, she came back to the house and as soon as she put her foot in the door, Rangers scored.’ At 3-0 down, and having blamed poor Linda, Jim finally admitted defeat. Little Ryan was so upset he switched off and retired to his bedroom. Jim was gutted, and Celtic had missed out on the title (for the time being, at least). Just hilarious!

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