The Football Fives World Championship is setting its sights on finding the best amateur five-a-side team in the world, bringing teams from around the globe together here for the first time. Benita Adesuyan finds out more.
Five-a-side football is a hugely popular sport in Dubai and the world over – it’s faster-paced than normal football and you don’t need so many players to make up a team. Duplays currently has 100 five-a-side teams in Dubai and with football fever taking hold, this new international championship for amateur teams aims to let the grass roots players take centre stage. The players may not be on eye-watering salaries or driving the flashiest cars but they will get a chance to represent their countries and play on the world stage.
Duplays, Dubai’s sports and recreational league organisation, is hosting the Football Fives World Championships, an amateur football tournament that will bring the best teams from 32 different countries across the world to the city. The event is the first of its kind and promises to be a major highlight of the Dubai sporting calendar.
Mark Webb, events manager for Duplays and F5WC who is coordinating the event, says he’s more than excited about the new world championship. ‘We’re looking for the best amateur five-a-side football team in the world – that’s our goal – and to put Dubai on the world stage on an amateur football level.’
Duplays has selected 32 countries to take part in the event, which required months of research and relationship-building before a single ball was kicked. Webb and his team had to find other companies globally who could organise a series of tournaments in their own countries with the winners from each nation coming to Dubai for the finals. ‘We had a hitlist of countries we wanted to include – Brazil was obviously very important, the USA, Middle East and UK,’ he explains.
‘The requirement is to run a tournament for a minimum of 64 teams, and if you take a small country like Estonia, they have a few hundred five-a-side teams but when you go somewhere like England, where our partner there is Power Leagues, who have 37 venues around the country, it has brought more than 5,000 teams and had tournaments in each of the 37 venues over a three- week period.’
The culmination of weeks of global qualifying rounds will take place on Friday June 13, with the first matches played at 9am on the two 40mx20m purpose-built pitches at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
Competing players will get to enjoy a taste of the footballing high life as they’re flown in from their home countries, stay at a top hotel and meet some of football’s heroes.
There will also be a home team representing the UAE, which Webb feels could be ones to watch. ‘I think the UAE team will be a young squad of 16-17 year-olds. I know there are a lot of very good local UAE teams here, I’ve seen them myself at other tournaments – so I’d definitely expect some locals to be playing in the finals.’
The tournament has been popular on the football pitches and playing fields of Dubai with more than 100 teams signed up in the UAE and rising. ‘It’s been very well received and we have only really done a soft launch so far. We have a good network of teams so it’s not so difficult to reach out to players.’
Excitingly, the championship is taking place in a purpose-built indoor arena with seating for up to 1,800 people, so if you’re not heading to Brazil for the World Cup this summer you can still enjoy great live football and an electric atmosphere on your doorstep, and what’s more the tickets are free.
Intriguingly, the tournament will be teeming with football talent and scouts from international clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Juventus will be among the crowd watching every kick, pass and goal. Does the organiser expect the next Lionel Messi to come out of this event? ‘That would be pretty awesome – you never know. The age range is 16 and up, there’s no maximum, and scouts will be on
the lookout. I reckon that will be a big demographic here. So it could happen.’
Free. Friday June 13-Saturday June 14, The Football Fives World Championship, Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.f5fc.com (04 447 2394).
Where to kick off in Dubai
Hire a five-aside pitch to play with your friends. All pitches are floodlit and you can have a casual game at any time. This facility also hosts youth coaching.
Dhs400 per hour for a five-a-side pitch, Dhs600 per hour for a seven-a-side pitch. Sun-Thu 6pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 8pm-midnight. Sheikh Zayed Road (near Dubai Bowling Centre), www.powerplay.ae (052 631 9213).
Dubai Sports City mixes the excitement of competition with a social and relaxed atmosphere. This facility offers indoor and outdoor pitches.
Dhs500 per hour for outdoor pitches, Dhs700 per hour for indoor pitches. Daily. 8am-midnight, Dubai Sports City, www.footballacademydubai.com (04 448 1555).
Dubai Women’s Football Association
This association organises seven-a-side matches and leagues exclusively for women that like to bend it like Beckham. Training is on Sundays, 7pm-8.30pm and matches are on Tuesday nights. Season resumes in August.
Dhs100 registration fee. Jebel Ali Center of Excellence, Jebel Ali, www.dubaiwfa.com (no number).