x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE football fans take to club kanduras

One Emirati man is standing out from a sea of white with his football-inspired kanduras.

Saeed Almrshedi in his store that sells kanduras at Global Village, Dubai in the colours of football teams. Jaime Puebla / The National
Saeed Almrshedi in his store that sells kanduras at Global Village, Dubai in the colours of football teams. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // In a sea of Al Ahli club supporters cheering inside the stadium, Saeed Almrshedi stands out in his kandura.

His traditional attire is not white, brown, or even navy blue. What makes him the talk of the crowd is that his kandura is emblazoned with the Al Ahli logo and red and black stripes - the team's colours.

"It was a hobby and just for personal use at first," said the 32-year-old Emirati from Fujairah. "I just wanted to break the routine. The traditional Emirati kandura does not have any touches to it. So I decided to add more value and make it suitable to modern lives."

But the reaction to the style when he first introduced it in 2009 made him realise he was not the only one who thought local clothing could do with a touch of pizzazz. With support from the Altomooh programme, a finance scheme for small businesses initiated by Emirates NBD Bank, he set up shop in Khor Fakkan in 2010.

"At first my idea was rejected because it was a relatively new concept for UAE society," he said."But I persisted and kept pushing them to believe in me and my idea."

Now his clients, mostly Arabs, know Mr Almrshedi can make anything they dream up.

"I add a lot of touches," he said, "like mixing harmonious colours, the way of cutting and stitching, zippers, drawing."

His designs have been approved by the local clubs his kanduras represent.

Al Ahli Club managers confirmed they had signed off on three kandura sketches last month. "It's a new concept and we hope it will take off in the UAE," said a manager at the club.

This year, Mr Almrshedi's creations are on display at a kiosk in Abu Dhabi's Al Wahda Mall and in Global Village, where he hopes to reach an international audience.

On weekends, his small stand near Gate 5 at the Dubai fairground is festooned with multicoloured kanduras.

His Pakistani attendant hands out flyers with price details to passersby. Each design sells for between Dh200 and Dh300, depending on the intricacy of the pattern.

The football-inspired kanduras get the most attention. He has designs celebrating local favourites Al Jazeera and Al Ain, and others dedicated to Premier League teams.

"Sales increase especially when there are big matches on," said Mr Almrshedi.

Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Al Niqbi, a UAE Army officer, has bought three football kanduras for his sons aged 12, 10 and 8.

"I heard about Saeed through friends in my neighbourhood about a month ago," said Mr Al Niqbi.

"Some had already bought a few from him. I liked the idea because it's something very new and not seen before in kanduras."

He said his children show them off. "My boys love wearing them, especially when we go to watch the football matches at the Jazeera Sports Centre in Sharjah.

"People stop and ask me where I got it from."

aahmed@thenational.ae