x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Travel troubles hampering Gulf Top Six teams

Gulf-based rugby union club sides will need to tackle visa issues some of them are facing regularly at airports if they are to field their best line-ups at the tournament.

The Dubai Hurricanes, in white and yellow, will arrive in Manama hopefully without visa issues. Jaime Puebla / The National
The Dubai Hurricanes, in white and yellow, will arrive in Manama hopefully without visa issues. Jaime Puebla / The National

When Dubai Hurricanes arrive in Manama tomorrow morning for their Gulf Top Six tie against Bahrain, they might discover a few stragglers at the airport still waiting for their flight back from last weekend's epic Gulf Cup final.

They will probably look a bit like Tom Hanks in The Terminal by now, but the Hurricanes players should not laugh: it could easily be them.

It is the one problem that still afflicts the commendably high-standard Gulf Top Six. The variable visa processes across the three countries involved means a kerfuffle at passport control is almost guaranteed at some point or other.

As such, teams rarely arrive at their destination with their first-choice squad – even if they set off with it.

Rugby in this region once thrived because of cross-border travel. Each weekend was a mini-voyage of discovery. For it to go well, though, you have always had to have a few people in the know, as well as a slice of luck.

A few years back Abu Dhabi Harlequins – or the Bats as they were then known – used to fly to matches on their own glorified microlight. They knew the pilot had the weekend off from flying it to the oil rigs. If they had an extended squad of players, they would ditch the life-raft to make room for them to travel.

Times have changed but the teams still have to get creative, or forward plan a long while in advance, if they are going to put their strongest team on the field.

pradley@thenational.ae

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