x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Fans gather for Euro 2012 kick-off

Bars, hotels and cafes cash in on start of football tournament.

Euro Cup fans gather at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel to watch the opening match of the 2012 season.
Euro Cup fans gather at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel to watch the opening match of the 2012 season.

Football fans gathered in sports bars, hotels and shisha cafes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last night for the opening match of the European Championship, between Poland and Greece.

Many fans, mostly English, had come with friends and family to witness the start of the action.

"Holland is my favourite team," said JA Choglay, an English tourist who was staying at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel and watching the first match at the Moevenpick Hotel.

"They play good football but I think Germany will win."

The Moevenpick Hotel had set up a football pitch for visitors in its Al Bahou lobby.

Another fan, Graham Walker, said he thought Poland had a good chance of winning last night, after the team scored its first goal 17 minutes into the game (the final score would be 1-1).

But Mr Walker said he thought Holland had a good chance of clinching the tournament.

Sadiq Das, an Indian expatriate, said he never missed a big football match.

"I used to play for a club in India. I don't care much for the Poland and Greece game but just came because it's the opening night," Mr Das said, adding the 8pm start time was perfect for UAE residents.

Barbara Pinter, an English fan on a visit to Dubai, hoped England would win this year's tournament. She said she was returning to the UK in time for their first match.

Abu Dhabi was also braced to cater to the needs of passionate football fans, from 46-inch screens at The Clubhouse in Zayed Sports City to two five-foot projectors at The Village Club in One to One Hotel.

Jad and Feras Barakat, brothers from Lebanon, were backing Poland to win last night but for different reasons.

"Poland is the hosting country, so it would be nice to have them win," Jad, 16, said. "It would be good if they qualify for the second round. It will help set a positive tone in the country and for the remaining games."

But the youngster hopes Spain, the reigning champions after winning Euro 2008, will win the tournament simply because "they deserve it".

"They have the best players and they'll never lose unless they're having a particularly bad day," he said. "Out of 100 games, I guarantee they'll win 90."

Jad's older brother, Feras, 24, wants Italy to win the tournament.

"They've been one of the best teams ever since I woke up to the whole football scene," he said.

Pubs, clubs and shisha cafes are anticipating a huge turnout in the coming days.

"We are expecting a lot of people," said the manager at the Harvester's Pub in Dubai's Crowne Plaza. "This is an English bar and we hope it will be crowded for the Russian, English and Germany games. We think a lot of British fans will come."