Sport in the United Arab Emirates
Life in the UAE
Sport in the United Arab Emirates is widely practiced by the people of the UAE. Football is the most popular sport in the UAE. Among the notable UAE sports achievements is the 2002–03 AFC Champions League won by Al Ain FC who also finished second in the 2005 AFC Champions League. The UAE qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals for the first and only time so far in 1990, the fourth Middle-Eastern country to have qualified for the World Cup after first Israel, (qualified for Mexico in 1970), then, Kuwait (qualified for Spain in 1982), and Iraq (qualified for Mexico again in 1986).
Football is the most popular sport in the UAE. The United Arab Emirates Football Association was first established in 1971 and since then has dedicated its time and effort to promoting the game, organizing youth programs and improving the abilities of not only its players, but of the officials and coaches involved with its regional teams. The UAE national football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1990 with Egypt. It was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982 and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986.
In 2003, the UAE was the host nation of the FIFA U-20 World Cup between November and December 2003.
In April, Dubai Holding agreed to provide the national team with Dh20 million (US$5.45 million) sponsorship money over the next four years. The fund will also go towards developing the sport.
The UAE also recently won the Gulf Cup of Nations held in Abu Dhabi in January 2007.
The UAE are currently ranked 110th in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings.
Abu Dhabi United Group have recently purchased Manchester City Football Club. A Dubai consortium known as DIC (Dubai International Capital) is also interested in buying the English Premier League club, Liverpool F.C.
The UAE U-16 national football team qualified for the 2009 Youth World Cup which was held in Nigeria. The UAE U-19 national football team was also qualified for the World Youth Cup finals to be held in Egypt the year after.
The Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships (part of the ATP World Tour 500 Series at the Aviation Club, Dubai) was bigger than ever in 2000 with no less than six of the top-seeded women’s players taking centre court, a first time appearance by tennis’ golden boy, Andre Agassi, and the return of the celebrated Roger Federer, who was seeking his third title crown, resulting in some dramatic court action. In an unprecedented move, Dubai Duty Free, organisers of the championship, decided to switch the men’s tournament to the first week of the competition so that it ran from February 21 to 27 and the women’s was played from February 28 to March 5.
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the UAE, largely due to the expatriate population from the Indian subcontinent. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in Sharjah has hosted four international test cricket matches so far. Sheikh Zayed Stadium and Al Jazira Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi also host international cricket matches. Dubai has two cricket stadiums (Dubai Cricket Ground No.1 and No.2) with a third, S3 currently under construction as part of Dubai Sports City. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council.1
The inhabitants of the Persian Gulf states have enjoyed camel racing for many years as it is considered a traditional sport. At one point, elephant racing was also practiced, but later disbanded in favor of camel racing due to lack of elephant grazing lands.2 Formalizing camel racing was one way of maintaining its central role in UAE life. In the past, UAE had a reputation for exploiting South Asians as jockeys. However, robot jockeys are now used after strict government regulations were passed prohibiting underage jockeys from racing.3
The UAE now has no fewer than 15 race tracks across the seven emirates. Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, 10 kilometers outside of Dubai, Al Wathba, 30 kilometers south-east of Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain track, which is 20 kilometers west of Al Ain, are all large, well-equipped camel tracks with high-tech facilities. Two smaller tracks are located in Sharjah, one in Ra’s al-Khaimah and one in Umm al-Qaiwain. Others are spread throughout the desert areas.
Dubai hosts annually the Dubai International Rally, a point-scoring round of the Middle East Rally Championship. Dubai driver Mohammed bin Sulayem is the most successful driver of the tournament, having won 14 championships and 60 races, and won the Dubai rally 15 times.
Khalid Al Qassimi, also born in the UAE, won the 2004 Middle East Rally Championship and scored seven wins in the series. From 2007 to 2011 he racedthe World Rally Championship, supported by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Board in the Ford World Rally Team and later the Team Abu Dhabi. He scored points in 10 races, with a best finish of 6th at the 2009 Acropolis Rally and a 12th championship finish in 2009 and 2010.
The UAE Desert Challenge, since 2009 called Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, is a rally raid race held since 1991. It is valid for the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and the FIM Cross Country Rally World Championship.
Abu Dhabi has hosted Formula One races there from the 2009 season onward. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held at the 5.6 km Yas Marina Circuit, located on Yas Island and includes street and marina sections similar to Circuit de Monaco.
The UAE hosts Dubai Sevens round of the IRB Sevens World Series. Previously this was held at Dubai Rugby Ground, but from 2008 onwards it has been held at the new stadium The Sevens on the Dubai-Al Ain road.
On November 20, 2001 and again in 2002, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna imposed comprehensive wildlife trade sanctions (i.e. recommendations against trade) on the United Arab Emirates. Sanctions were instigated by industrial-scale falcon smuggling, financed and directed by the ruling sheikhs. Smuggling continues into 2009, to such an extent that saker falcons, altai gyrafalcons, and gyrfalcons have become regionally extinct across much of Central Asia. Golden eagles and houbara bustards (lesser McQueen's bustards) are also critically endangered in Central Asian regions where falconry is practiced.
Endurance riding or racing is a traditional sport in the UAE. It involves long distance races on horse back. UAE patriot Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is a premiere endurance rider.citation needed The UAE claim to be the global leaders of the sport and are campaigning for it to be in the Olympic Games. At the top level, horses cover 160 km in a day. The UAE hold the record for the fastest 160 km race at the Presidents Cup. Recently a UAE rider won the young rider world championships. This sport is growing and the technology and science involved is always developing. The Dubai Endurance City is leading the sport in the country with many world class endurance yards competing regularly.citation needed
- ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship
- United Arab Emirates at the Olympics
- Traditional Sports in UAE
- "Cricinfo - Grounds - United Arab Emirates". Content-uk.cricinfo.com. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
- Dubai By Terry Carter, Lara Dunston, pg. 17
- The United Arab Emirates Yearbook 2007 By Ibrahim Al Abed, Peter Vine
- Folklore and Folklife in the United Arab Emirates by Sayyid Hamid Hurriez, Sayyid Hurreiz, pg 143