x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Hosting events: UAE has been there and done that

The country has played host to a variety of one-off events in major sports from abroad, some more successful than others, writes Paul Radley.

ABU DHABI - 30JAN2011 - Action from the rugby match between London Wasps (black) and Harlequins yesterday at Emirates Palace hotel grounds in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
ABU DHABI - 30JAN2011 - Action from the rugby match between London Wasps (black) and Harlequins yesterday at Emirates Palace hotel grounds in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

The UAE has played host to a variety of one-off events in major sports from abroad, some more successful than others.

1 Collingwood v Adelaide, Australian Rules Nab Cup, 2008, Dubai

Collingwood took advantage of their new sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline by taking a Nab Cup fixture basically a glorified pre-season friendly to Dubai five years ago.

Given that the sport is barely played or followed at any great level beyond Australia, it was perhaps surprisingly well received.

Around 6,000 people made the journey to the polo club in Ghantoot, where temporary scaffolding stands were erected for the occasion.

For all the exposure they received, though, the venture was a nightmarish one on the field for the drivers of it.

Collingwood, who had a number of players struggling with a virus, were thumped 136-55 by the Crows.

2 Brazil v Iran, international football friendly, 2010, Abu Dhabi

A match that was held at Zayed Sports City on nine days' notice after the original venue chosen by the organisers, a Swiss managements company, fell through.

Kentaro own the rights to a series of Brazil national team matches and take the Selecao to many and varied places to play as part of what they term the Brazil World Tour.

This game against Iran attracted perhaps 20,000 supporters, who struggled to make their presence felt in the large national stadium.

Brazil won 3-0, then had to hastily pack their bags for the next stop on their globe-trotting tour.

It was something of a comedown after Abu Dhabi, though: four days later, they were playing Ukraine in Derby, in the English Midlands.

3 India v Pakistan, DLF Cup cricket, 2006, Abu Dhabi

Cricket and the UAE go together like jam and toast. Even though national teams of great repute have only been sporadic visitors there in recent times, Sharjah has still hosted more one-day internationals than any other venue in the world.

The matches staged at the country's oldest cricket venue between India and Pakistan remain some of the most thrilling and enduring in the history of sport in this country.

And yet, because of India's unwillingness to play bilateral series in neutral territories, encounters between the two foes have been sadly absent from these shores since two ODIs seven years ago.

That brief series, staged to inaugurate the new Zayed Cricket Stadium in the capital and attended by the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, was halved.

4 London Wasps v Harlequins, LV Cup, rugby union, 2011, Abu Dhabi

Yes, this was a competitive fixture, but only really in name. The LV Cup formerly known as the Anglo-Welsh Cup is the lowest strata of senior competition in UK top-flight rugby, and many teams use it to try out young players.

The odd thing about this game was it was designated as a home fixture for London Wasps. Their opponents, Harlequins, had roots in the city in the form of their Abu Dhabi affiliate club of the same name.

As such, when it came to game time, few in the 5,000 strong crowd on the lawn of the Emirates Palace, had a fixed idea who they were supporting. It made for an odd ambience.

pradley@thenational.ae

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