Friday, December 11, 2009

World Club Cup Part III

My route this time took me to Muscat, Oman and then to Dubai, where a flight of 22 minutes saw me arrive back in Abu Dhabi at 13.40 on Matchday 1.

Dubai

The first difference I noticed was that this time there was a bus available for passengers to get to the city centre. So after numerous enquiries I was sent outside to search for the elusive bus stop. Sure enough I found a stop but there were no signs (in English) indicating the times or the route. So I waited ...and waited. Eventually other people arrived but they wanted to share a taxi, so as time was getting on I decided to join them. My companions both worked at the airport and were from Mauritius and Egypt. Both were keen on football but had little idea about the competition that was due to start in their adopted city in around 5 hours time.

Arriving in downtown Abu Dhabi I was confident I would be able to find my way about as the city is laid out in a grid system. However I didn't take into account the massive reconstruction taking place to the main road in Abu Dhabi itself. At first I was told the work was to do with the laying of a Metro (keeping up with Dubai, who have recently opened a 30 km route), I believe the work is actually to build a major underpass right into the heart of the city. So with a lot of help from my Egyptian friend I found my hotel somewhat further out from the centre than I was last time, and apparently cut off with the nearby 4 lane highway desolate.

My next task was to collect my tickets, I showed the address to a number of people who couldn't help. Jumping in a taxi, was my only option. I had seen on my map there was a football stadium near where I believed the address was so I asked the driver to head for that area. My taxi driver was from Nepal, and although he knew the roads, he wasn't aware of the event taking place, as soon as he understood what was happening he asked if "oomey" was playing. Minutes later I realised he meant Rooney.

Eventually spotted Football House, with FIFA banners and joined a small throng of anxious supporters waiting to collect tickets. Everyone seemed to be having problems. They couldn't find their envelope or the tickets they received were not what they expected. A bit of patience would be asked for by the staff and a few minutes later everything was miraculously put right. Eventually it was my turn. Seconds later I received my envelope complete with the set of tickets I had requested. Enquiring on how to get to the Stadium where kick off was now less than two hours away I was told it was less then 10 minutes, in my car. Overhearing a fellow supporter offered me a lift. He was Indian and lived right next to the Stadium.

Having a spare ticket, I decided to see if I could find someone who needed one. My original idea was to visit the Adidas shop in the centre and to give it to one of the staff there as they had provided me with tickets for my last visit here to the Gulf Cup in 2007, but time was against me as the roads were busy.

Supporters were channeled through security searches and into the Fan Zone, before they would enter the stadium, I watched with interest as various chancers tried their luck at breaching the security. They weren't the ones I was looking to spend an evening with. Half an hour before kick off I meet Saeed, dressed in his dishdasha. At last a local, I thought. He needed a ticket and was happy to join Me in my Category 1 (the best seats!) position behind the goal 8 rows up in the corner.

Saeed of course was not an Emirati, but he was the nearest I had met as he was from Yemen. He had a great love of football and also knew about the local league. He told me he was from Bani Yas, and I told him I would be there on Monday for their game against Al Ain. We exchanged emails and agreed to meet at the bus station Monday night.

The stadium itself is magnificent, I was interested to see a note in the official programme that the roof had been special constructed so that it could reflect crowd noise. Surely this along with the 'UAE make some noise" slogan evident around the city would make for a good atmosphere.

Well the stadium in in Abu Dhabi where the weather is hot all year round, now a roof to provide shade would be great, but the stadium with the extra tier added to the three sides where the majority of spectators are seated has no roof. The only roof is on the main stand where the journalist's and VIPs were housed.

The home team support for such an event was disappointing, contrasting markedly with the enthusiasm I had seen in Japan two years earlier. The teams display matched that of their fans lethargic and not totally committed to the cause. They deserved to lose.

Reading the paper the next day the foreign stars were blamed and the papers made it clear that there would be changes to the team.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

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