Even after last week’s protracted rant about financial doping in football, we found it hard not to join in the celebrations of Chelsea’s first-ever Champions’ League victory. In spite of the billions of dirhams that have been poured into the club by Russian owner Roman Abramovich, it’s difficult to begrudge a team that many had written off. On the night Chelsea were outclassed by Bayern Munich, but with luck on their side and the ageing yet timeless talents of Didier Drogba upfront and Petr Cech in goal, they managed somehow to hoist the trophy.
Yet for all the unbridled celebrations in Munich on Saturday night, it remains to be seen whether caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo will be instated as full-time manager. While the European Cup is a holy grail for most managers, one suspects that Abramovich’s predilection for big names (players and managers alike) will mean that the characterful Italian will be relieved of his position before the beginning of next season. We can only hope we’re wrong.
The rugby equivalent of the Champions League (a competition sponsored by a certain hop-based beverage) also came to a climax over the weekend. Irish side Leinster became the most successful club in the competition’s history, after comfortably seeing off compatriots Ulster 42-14 in front of a record 81,774 fans. The huge crowd is testament to just how big the domestic game is becoming. The UAE’s links to Premiership rugby are increasing thanks in large to Etihad’s sponsorship of London’s Harlequins. Indeed, UAE-based rugby enthusiasts recently enjoyed a visit from Harlequins players Will Skinner, Danny Care and Rory Clegg, who hosted a coaching clinic earlier this month at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sport City. The whole Harlequins squad were enjoying time in Abu Dhabi ahead of the Aviva Premiership final against Leicester Tigers on Saturday May 26, at 6pm.
Back to football, and calls for Diego Maradona to be hired as coach for the UAE national team seem to be getting louder by the day. Recently, Yousuf al-Serkal, president of the UAE Football Association, said that Maradona was among the leading candidates for the job. Why, we’re unsure – Maradona’s tenure as Al Wasl coach resulted in the Dubai team languishing in eighth place in the latest instalment of the Etisalat Pro League. Of course, Maradona’s presence in the UAE has raised the profile of the domestic game, though his obvious deficiencies as a manager beg the question: would the money needed to secure his signature be better spent on an international coach with a proven track record? Gimmicks, after all, can only go so far.
This week’s TV sporting highlights
Friday May 25
Live International Test Cricket: England v West Indies, 2nd Test 2pm, OSN 1 HD.
Saturday May 26
Aviva Premiership Play-off Final: Harlequins vs Leicester 6pm, Al Jazeera.
Sunday May 27
Monaco Grand Prix 10am, Abu Dhabi Sports
Where to watch
West Beach Bistro
A good spot for F1 and rugby.
Mövenpick JBR (04 449 8888).
This Meydan venue will be showing rugby and cricket.
Meydan Golf Club (04 381 3231).