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Dubai tries to get footy moving in the Middle East

  • Thursday, November 23 2006 @ 04:39 pm ACDT
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Middle East

In the West, the Middle East is never far from front page news. Unfortunately, in the world of Aussie Rules, it has been quite the contrary. There have been attempts to set up competitions in Lebanon, Israel and Turkey, but ultimately, they either haven't yet come to fruition, or they are on hiatus. Furthermore, the recent tension in the area is unlikely to have done a great deal to help proceedings. Yet almost unnoticed, the United Arab Emirates, renowned for its rapid city construction levels and more tolerant way of life (at least from a Western perspective), has produced a team in the city of Dubai.

The Dingoes, as they are affectionately known, is the result of a few homesick Aussies trying to keep fit during the city's summer months, where days can reach a steamy 45 degrees Celsius. Those few Aussies has grown steadily, with there now being enough players to field two teams, and to train regularly.

In addition to the seniors, junior football is played at Safa Park on Friday mornings, which attracts over forty children. Dubai's junior program is supported by the AFL's Auskick and run by enthused parents.

The inroads are reflective of a growing Australian population in Dubai. Whilst the team is Australian-expatriate based, there are Irish and British players amongst their ranks and they hope that this will include an Emirati in the near future.

Unfortunately though, it's not all clear sailing. Dubai lacks suitable fields for full-sized games of Australian football, and a modified version of the game is played as a result. Dubai is also in the process of developing a precinct called Sports City, which will provide access and excellent infrastructure for elite sports, however it looks like being limited in what it offers the sport at a grassroots level.

As a sporting location, the UAE is known for its cricket (Dubai is the home of the ICC), soccer and rugby competitions and horse racing. Dubai is even home to a Gaelic football club, the Celts. Part of the Dingoes establishment can be credited to a few Australians in the Celts side, yearning to play their native game.

Dubai has been touted by the AFL (repeatedly) as a location for a future exhibition match, with Collingwood, who is sponsored by UAE Airline Emirates, a frontrunner to compete. This will either be in 2007 or 2008.

The Dingoes are hoping to form some sort of affiliation with Collingwood to assist in the achievement of their future ambitions - one of which is a football competition they are hosting in March 2007, the Dubai 9s. It is open to senior teams throughout the world. More information will be available on the event as it comes to hand. Anyone interested in finding out more about the Dingoes or the Dubai 9s should contact Nigel Koch via nigel.koch@cracknell.com.