I am currently on work in Dubai and last Thursday, September 22, I got the chance to watch my first-ever local football league match in the United Arab Emirates, a top tier 2016/17 UAE Arabian Gulf League game between hosts Al Nasr and current league champions Al Ahli at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.
Over the years I have heard and read a lot about football in the UAE, but though I have visited Dubai numerous times in the past, have watched some games and highlights on television, I have never had the chance to watch a game here due to different reasons.
I looked forward to being at the game though having no expectations at all and I have to say I was positively surprised.
I have seen in the past television footage of matches from the UAE with sparse crowds attending, but this Dubai derby saw a good attendance of 3,500 to 4,000 fans as per my estimate.
There was a special block behind one of the goals for the Al Ahli away supporters besides an own Al Ahli VIP stand as I was told it is normal for matches in the UAE, while the VVIPs sat together in an air conditioned room with own television sets infront of high quality leather seats, so they didn’t miss any of the action.
The fans were lively with a lot of local songs and drums being played giving the match a great own atmosphere, much to my own liking though being totally different from what I have seen, watched and heard around the world of football.
The game was sadly not a close contest as champions Al Ahli were much superior to their hosts Al Nasr, but it remained a tight encounter as Al Ahli only scored one goal to seal the three points in their quest to retain the UAE Arabian Gulf League title.
The game was an 8pm local time kick-off, but in September to me it seemed too early as it was quiet hot and humid, which caused the game to slow down in phases and there were also two referee given water breaks.
Overall I have to say, an interesting and new football experience, which I hope to repeat in the future when I return to Dubai and the UAE.
In the end I wanted to thank my friend Shanavas for enabling me to watch the match!!!