x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Premier League cup starts global tour in UAE

The cup arrived in the capital for the start of a global tour, the first in its history.

ABU DHABI // From diehard football fans to curious onlookers, the English Premier League trophy attracted a diverse crowd to the Abu Dhabi Corniche yesterday.

The cup arrived in the capital for the start of a global tour, the first in its history.

"It's the only time you get to hold the trophy," said Seth Amoafo, 30, as he waited excitedly to get close to the silverware with his wife, Helen, 28.

An interactive village with four zones, or domes, has been set up on the capital's Corniche, taking fans through the history of the league. The village stays in Abu Dhabi until tomorrow and moves to the Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai from April 1 to 3.

Mr Amoafo was in the reception area of the village, called the Changing Room, which details the game's history with interactive features of the 20 teams in England's top league.

The family then followed other visitors to the Centre Circle, which blasts out the noise and atmosphere created in stadiums throughout England.

In the Trophy Room, where the coveted football cup is showcased, no one gets to actually hold it, as it is surrounded by a glass casing. But for the fans, taking pictures in front of the casing was good enough, and the room was alight with flashes from cameras and mobile phones.

"I am a fan of Chelsea and they won it last year," said Francis Chege, 29, who is from Kenya. "It is amazing when you consider how hard teams fight to get it."

In the final zone, called Becoming The Third Lion, fans were offered the chance to have a photograph taken of them as they simulated lifting the trophy. The cup is adorned with two lions; the captain of the winning side is meant to be the third lion as he holds the cup over his head.

Leanne Dean, 28, and her three children and husband were eager to be that third lion.

"It was for the kids more than anything," said Mrs Dean, explaining that it was her eldest one, Bashir, 8, who is the biggest football fan in the family.

The trophy that England's top teams fight for was designed by the royal jewellers Asprey of London. It weighs 25kg and is 76cm tall. The main part of its body is made of sterling silver and silver gilt, and its base is made of malachite.

The Premier League is broadcast to more than 580 million households in more than 200 countries.

Abu Dhabi Sports shows every Premier League match live cross the Middle East and North African. The channel is owned by Abu Dhabi Media, which publishes The National.

A dedicated website, www.barclayspremierleaguetrophytour.com, has been set up for fans with details on the domes.

After Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the tour goes to Doha and Riyadh. After the Middle East, it will leap to Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy, a four-team competition featuring Chelsea, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and the Hong Kong champion, which will take place from July 27 to 30. It will be taken to Asia, North America and Africa during the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons.