Saturday, December 12, 2009

World Club Cup Part IV

I mentioned earlier that I would try and find my way to any local games taking place, my quest started the moment I arrived at my hotel where I asked for their help in checking the fixtures. I believed there were two games taking place in Dubai, and that the following morning there would be camel racing at 7a.m.

Dubai

They confirmed the first game as I thought but told me the second game was actually due to take place here in Abu Dhabi at the Zayed Sports stadium, one of the venues for this competition. As for the camel racing they knew nothing about it. I was clearly up against it as I was sure that FIFA would not allow a stadium being used by them to host a local game. So now I knew I could not rely on the hotel for information.

Whilst collecting my tickets I spotted someone in an Al Ahli shirt, knowing that he must be from Dubai, I asked him about the fixtures the next day. Immediately he phoned a friend and confirmed that Al Nasr would play at 16.45 and Al Wasl would play at 20.00, in Dubai, at grounds just 10 minutes apart. Unfortunately the camel racing wasn't on in Dubai but it was in Abu Dhabi.

So my second day in the Emirates and I was off to Dubai, the Al Nasr website is one of only three that I had found with English content and kindly provided a location map for the ground. I spent the afternoon in Bastikaya before heading in the direction of the stadium. Meeting yet more roadworks on major roads meant navigation had become impossible. Jumping in a taxi I was soon at the ground.

I phoned my friend, who had said he might accompany me to the games, but he was still at work. Judging by the crowd, so was everyone else. It was hard to imagine that this was a stadium where recently crowd trouble had seen supporters banned. This was only a cup game and I was assured that there is more of a crowd, firstly for evening games and for the actual league games.

Without my friend I wasn't sure how I would get to Al Wasl later so I asked around and worked out that the ground was 10 minutes away, by car.

Al Nasr was the club that Don Revie managed after laying the foundations as U.A.E. national manager, where he had an unsuccessful reign but correctly predicted that they would appear in a World Cup finals in the next 15 years. They made their debut at Italia 1990, losing to Colombia, West Germany and Yugoslavia.

Al Nasr had lost their previous game 5-1 and their website announced that they were standing by their German manager, Frank Pagelsdorf, but their assistant coach and fitness coach would be leaving.

Al Nasr strolled into a 3-0 half time lead, as a lethargic Emirates defence watched. The second half saw the Emirates wake up, but a quick two goal burst from Al Nasr saw them run out 5-2 winners to restore some much needed pride.

Whilst watching the game I met Michael Rodosthenous, the Deputy Executive Director of Al Nasr. A former W.B.A. player who found his way here via Cambridge United and Adelaide Raiders. He explained the circumstances surrounding the crowd trouble. Al Nasr were hosting city rivals Al Ahli. Al Ahli were having a torrid time and were told they must not lose this game. Their was a lot of hype surrounding the game and Al Ahli were outplayed but winning 2-1 with five minutes to go. Al Nasr equalised, but the a dubious offside flag was raised. Spectators vented their anger and a sandal hit the linesman.

Michael showed me behind the scenes before driving me to the game at Al Wasl. We decided to take the scenic route as he showed me Dubai by night, passing the Emirates Towers and the tallest building in the world the Burj Dubai. Dropping me off I could hear there was a little more atmosphere, as expected for the evening kick off.

The game itself was a close affair with away side Al Jazirah winning 1-0. After the game a taxi back to Dubai saw me catch the bus back to Abu Dhabi. Now the camel racing was apparently due to take place 45km away from Abu Dhabi at 7a.m. As it was now 1a.m and I couldn't confirm where the track was or how to get there I decided to give it a miss.

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

1 comment:

steven said...

Informative blog. I go quite regulary to the Al Nasr games and was at the one with the crowd trouble. There were two notable incidents which got the home crowd rightly upset (although I don't condone throughing things onto the pitch) - Al Ahlis first goal was a dubious penalty. Then later on Al Nasr had a goal disallowed when one of their players was judged offside even though he wasnt interfering in play and the shot was straight at goal from an onside player. Its so difficult to get any information about the games but e,g The crowd trouble has led to Al Nasr playing some of their home games as away games behind closed doors which has never been reported in the press. But the good side is that you get in for free to the home matches.