Abu Dhabi // American football made its competitive debut at Zayed Sports City yesterday as two teams from the fledgling UAE Falcons held a proper scrimmage.
"Before, we didn't have enough people to do what we did now," said Khalid Al Qassemi, 25, a member of the Sharjah royal family who played offensive right guard for one side.
"Before, it was just an offence-against-defence type of game. Now, with two proper teams, we consider this our first local American football game. Reaching where we are right now, it's a very, very proud moment."
Beginning in heat that sapped energy, especially for receivers, and continuing into fresh darkness, the game ended in a 14-6 victory for the Dubai Falcons over the UAE Falcons.
Afterward Kai Trompeter, the coach, told his players: "You will play lots of football. I'll personally be working on this very hard."
That will entail "formalising" with hopes for a league, said Dustin Cherniawski, the free safety who played for the Canadian Football League 2007 Grey Cup champions Saskatchewan Roughriders. "At the moment it's almost more of a social thing," he said, "but what you could say is that due to overwhelming interest, it's quickly formalising into plans for the fall."
Word of mouth has attracted several Emiratis to the game plus expatriates from countries including Egypt, Jordan, Australia, Canada, the UK and, of course, the US. A database of 150 could suffice for a league, Cherniawski said, adding, "What we're trying to do is get people talking."
Andre Tosic, 30, the athletic quarterback, saw this stage in his native Serbia 10 years ago when he joined a nascent league. "I've been in exactly the same situation there," he said. "It's going to happen here."