x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE labourers rely on labour camp TVs to catch IPL cricket action

Labourers in the UAE survive on small pay and they say because the cost of living has surged, most will watch the games on big screens at their residence halls.

Crowds cheering at Sharjah Cricket Stadium as they watch the Indian Premier League match between Royal Challengers Bangalore vand Delhi Daredevils on April 17, 2014. Labourers in Musaffah's workers' quarters will be gathering for the live matches when they appear on the big screens in their camps. Pawan Singh / The National
Crowds cheering at Sharjah Cricket Stadium as they watch the Indian Premier League match between Royal Challengers Bangalore vand Delhi Daredevils on April 17, 2014. Labourers in Musaffah's workers' quarters will be gathering for the live matches when they appear on the big screens in their camps. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // For many of the people who build our cities, cricket is a way of life.

Workers in Mussaffah’s labour camps will watch most of the Indian Premier League games on big screens, while some die-hard fans will head for the cricket grounds.

The IPL started in Abu Dhabi last Wednesday at Zayed Cricket Stadium in the capital.

“I love the cricket, and IPL matches in particular, as they have a mix of the best players in one team, which is unique,” said a Pakistani, Mohammed Ikram.

“Although I cannot go to the stadiums much because of work, the rest I’ll catch on television,” said Mr Ikram, who lives in Industrial City Abu Dhabi (Icad).

Sukhvinder Singh, 25, from India, supports Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), and is confident about his team’s chances this year.

“I’ll watch all the matches as I love cricket so much. If I find time from my work, I will go to the stadium.”

Mr Singh also plays every Friday near his Icad accommodation.

“I believe that Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Sing will get RCB the win in this IPL,” Mr Singh said, referring to the Indian batsmen.

Organisers of cricket games sometimes bring workers to the stadiums on buses and offer them snacks and T-shirts.

Because labourers are on low incomes, many of the men say this is the only way they can watch games live.

“The cost of living has skyrocketed. We came here to earn some money for our family back home – not to spend on games,” said Mohammed Shamim, 46, an Indian who has lived here for 14 years.

Many workers, some of whom earn as little as Dh600 a month, are excited about the IPL, but with ticket prices starting at Dh20 they simply can’t afford it.

These concerns are shared by Pakistani worker, Gul Jaan.

“If organisers send their buses we can watch some games. They give gifts, T-shirts and food too,” said Mr Jaan, 32.

“I earn Dh600 a month. If I take a taxi it will charge Dh10 for a trip to the stadium. So total spending on watching a match could be about Dh40 a day, which is double my day’s earnings,” Mr Gul said.

Most labourers work long shifts: they leave their accommodation by 7am and do not return until 7pm.

Abdur Rehman, 31, from Bangladesh, plans to watch the games at his camp. “I support Kolkata Knight Riders as Shakib Al Hasan plays with the team and hope that this time we will win the IPL,” he said, referring to the Bangladeshi all-rounder.

Pakistani Abdul Mujeeb, 27, also plans to watch games on the big screen.

“We are going to watch all matches on labour camp televisions with friends and that would be exciting. We cannot afford to spend money on games because our salaries are very low.

“My salary is Dh1,000 a month – how I can spend half of it on watching matches? We are poor people and can’t afford such luxury games in stadiums, so we watch them on TV,” he said.

The IPL games will be held in the UAE until April 30.

anwar@thenational.ae