Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 September 2019

Fans turn to British and German internet streaming sites for football

'The transmission is so slow, I receive an SMS alert before I see the goal'

Eliaquim Mangala, left, is a more obvious fit for Sam Allardyce than Pep Guardiola. David J Phillip / AP Photo
Eliaquim Mangala, left, is a more obvious fit for Sam Allardyce than Pep Guardiola. David J Phillip / AP Photo

Football fans facing a season devoid of football due to the block on beIN Sports say they'll likely turn to internet streaming sites in the hope of seeing their teams play.

In the shisha cafes of Abu Dhabi yesterday, fans were resigned to sitting in front of a laptop in August.

Etisalat and du blocked access to beIN Sports two months ago. Some cafes and residents with direct subscriptions to beIN can continue to screen games, though it is not clear if they will be able to renew later this year.

For many, live-streaming games through British and German websites is an option, though there is no Arabic commentary - and such services are typically unreliable. Some are paid for and others free.

"I'm a big football fan, and now I have to watch it online," said Sarah Elchanti, a 29-year sales manager from Palestine and a Real Madrid fan, though her favourite hang-out, Le Boulanger cafe off Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street, has the sports network for now.

"I am worried where will I watch the next season, which will start mid-August," she said of La Liga, which is exclusively shown on beIN.

"I can watch it online, but I don't enjoy it much, because the connection is weak, and the commentator is usually English or German."

Ismail Al Housani, 35, a former Al Jazira FC player, said he feels he should not watch beIN, as he works for the police and given the boycott of Qatar.

"I still have the Bein sports channels at home, they might be cut in October. I feel that if I continue to watch I am cheating myself and my principles,' he said.

"I love football, but since there has been this issue and exchange [of conflict] I've had this conviction not to watch those channels."

Nagham cafe, a small shisha cafe in Muroor, also still has the channels via satellite.

Hazza Al Hammadi, 30, an Emirati financial auditor, was smoking shisha while watching Arsenal on the Doha-based network yesterday.

"I am not a major football fan, but I can still view the ones I am interested in online," he said.

"But online the transmission is 10 minutes late - so I receive an SMS to say there was a goal, way before I see it live."

Hubbly Bubbly Cafe at the Holiday Inn said they received orders to shut down the channels when the Qatar boycott began in Ramadan.

"The loyal guests still come anyway, but younger customers in their early 20s, who used to come specifically to watch the games, stopped coming during match time," said one of the waiters.

"But our shisha place is small and gets filled up right away, so it is not really impacting us," he added.

Updated: July 21, 2017 11:39 AM