Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Expat Norwich fans stage open top bus parade — in Dubai

Supporters in Dubai have 'more successful' tour than real team, whose bus broke down as they celebrated title triumph

Weeks after he set up UAE Canaries — a Dubai-based group of supporters of UK football side Norwich City — Philip Bray settled down to listen to a match on his laptop.

A decade ago, then in the third tier of English football, the radio feed brought news of a disastrous opening match of the season, with Norwich losing 7-1 at home to minnows Colchester.

So it makes sense that when the group has something to celebrate, they do so in style.

The fans this week arranged their own open-top bus parade — traditionally staged by players and managers to celebrate a sporting triumph — to mark Norwich’s return to the Premier League.

More than 5,000km away from home, around two-dozen supporters passed some of the Emirate’s best-known sites, such as the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa, on their parade on Friday.

“One of our members is a director of Big Bus tours, which makes it quite easy to get our hands on an open top bus,” Mr Bray, 58, said. “The last few years we’ve just been trying to keep the group going. We knew we’d look a bit stupid if only a few people turned up but we managed to get around 25.

“The reaction was great, there were a lot of people waving and beeping their horns at us. I think people just like to see other people being happy. It also made us realise that you can take this city for granted a bit — just having a drive around Dubai was really good.”

Norwich fans pass the Burj Al Arab on  their open top bus tour of Dubai
Norwich fans pass the Burj Al Arab on  their open top bus tour of Dubai

The UAE Canaries, which are officially affiliated to Norwich City, get together to watch games at the Crown and Lion in Dubai. However, numbers have dwindled in recent years, with the club’s absence from England’s top league meaning games are rarely on TV in the UAE. Those that are shown are often on late.

However, Norwich’s return to the Premier League means next season, every match will be televised with most kicking off in early evening. Mr Bray, who works in project management, hopes this will lead to a rejuvenation of the UAE Canaries, saying in past Premier League seasons around 30 Norwich fans have got together every week.

 the supporters' club was founded a decade ago
 the supporters' club was founded a decade ago

And he can also claim that his open top bus tour was more successful than the real version back in his home town.

Thousands of fans took to the streets of Norwich on May 6 to see the team show off their trophy — only for the players to have to abandon the specially-decorated vehicle due to a mechanical failure and complete the parade in a replacement.

“It’s good for people back in Norfolk to see there is a supporter group out here, and we are sharing in the celebrations,” he said. “And unlike our football team’s bus, ours didn’t break down.”

Updated: May 13, 2019 10:07 AM

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