Ambitious plans are underway to set up an American football league in the UAE, with a formal announcement and further details expected to be announced after an exhibition game in Dubai today between the UAE Falcons and a side from Turkey, itself the first-ever game of American football in the UAE.
"The league will start in October with teams from Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai," said Kai Trompeter, the Falcons head coach.
"We will open up for trials for players and the Falcons will continue to function as an all-star side comprising the best players from this league."
The Falcons, the country's first and only American football side, were formed nearly three years ago as a semi-professional team with an American coach.
A downturn in the economy left them in a brief limbo but they built momentum towards their first-ever game today once Trompeter took over 18 months ago.
They now have six coaches, and four of the 45 players in the side are Emiratis, including Khalid Al Qassemi, a private banker who plays tight end, as well as a member of the Sharjah royal family. Roughly half the team are expatriates from the region; there are players with experience from professional leagues in the USA and Europe as well.
The Falcons were due to play against a team from Egypt earlier this month before political turmoil there put paid to that plan, but today's opponents will be of some quality.
"The foundation of the guys we are playing against is from one team, the Mersin Mustangs, from Turkey," Trompeter said.
"They are supported by three players from the national champions, the Istanbul Cavaliers and four American [collegiate] players: a wide receiver from USC [University of Southern California], a running back from Princeton [University], a defensive end from Montana State and a linebacker from [the University of] Texas."
Currently, the all-star side is funding itself and the game, including paying for the travelling and accommodation expenses of the Turkish side as well as the venue for the game, The Sevens in Dubai.
That is unlikely to be the case for much, according to Trompeter, a German, who has played professionally in Europe.
"We now have some sponsors on board, so we're planning to organise another exhibition game in April," he said. "But the focus will be on the league now, and we're planning it so that everything is up and running by mid-October."