Following the solid progress Australian Football has made in the Middle East in the last two years, AFL Middle East will kick off in October 2008. The league will run over six months, and feature six of the region's clubs, with matches in nine-a-side format. As expected, four clubs are from the Emirates; the Dubai Dingoes, Dubai Heat, Dubai Dragons and the Abu Dhabi Falcons. The Muscat Magpies and Doha Kangaroos complete the group.
Stephen Nugent, Commercial Manager of AFL Middle East was recently in Melbourne to meet with the AFL and finalise plans for the league. He was also fortunate enough to meet Melbourne Chairman Jim Stynes, who has pledged "coaching and structural support for the teams". Nugent will reveal more about the league to WFN in coming weeks. In the meantime, Chelsea Roffey provides a good summary for the AFL website.
The United Arab Emirates is now home to four Australian Football clubs, following the recent establishment of the Dubai Dragons. Sharing Dubai as their "home city" with the Dragons are Middle Eastern football pioneers, the Dingoes and two-time Dubai 9s champions, the Heat. The Emirates' fourth club are the Falcons, who are located in the capital, Abu Dhabi.
Dragons' President, Matthew Gribble shared a brief background of the club with WFN.
The Dubai Heat are the Middle East’s most successful Australian football club in terms of matches won. Since their formation in 2007, the Heat have grown from a few mates, to a squad of over 30 players. WFN chatted to Daniel Dugina, one of the instigators of the club about their major highlights and plans for the future.
The Doha Kangaroos will today face off against the Dubai Dingoes for the ANZAC Cup, in the first Australian football match on Qatari soil. The game begins at 3pm at the Doha Rugby Club and will follow the same format as the Dubai 9s, but will be comprised of four quarters. Entry to the game is by donation, which will help support Frank Kleinitz, a popular member of Doha’s Australian community who was involved in a serious motorbike accident two weeks ago. He is currently recuperating in hospital, with serious back, leg and rib injuries. Frank also faces months of rehabilitation. Organisations can also support Frank. For a donation of QR2000.00 your organisation can place a banner up on game day at the ground, in view of the entire crowd. Crown Relocations and Rydges have confirmed their involvement for the day. For more details contact Gary Johnson on +974 556 2054.
This match marks the end of a busy football season for the Dingoes. It began with a game against the Muscat Magpies in Oman in December 2007. In March they hosted the Dubai 9s tournament, which drew eight teams from the Middle East region and earlier this month they played the Falcons in Abu Dhabi.
For the second successive year a Dubai Heat team has won the Dubai 9s tournament. Dubai's two football clubs, the Dingoes and the Heat supplied two teams each for this year’s event, with Dubai Heat Black the overall winners. Eight teams participated in what the Dingoes’ Philip Temple described as “a bigger and better tournament than last year.”
The Middle East football scene continues to flourish with an Abu Dhabi side joining the Dubai Heat, Dubai Dingoes, Doha Kangaroos and a recently-formed Muscat club in that region. After previous attempts in Lebanon, Israel and Turkey, football got the boost it needed when the Dingoes stepped onto the scene in late 2006. In early 2007, the Dingoes hosted a 9-a-side football competition in Dubai which contributed to Doha and the Heat forming. Muscat joined them in late 2007, and Dubai (the city) even managed to secure an AFL preseason match in 2008, with Adelaide defeating Collingwood at the Ghantoot Polo Fields. Adding to all this, a Peres Peace Team will compete at this year’s International Cup, their squad comprised of Israelis and Palestinians.
In this article WFN previews the Abu Dhabi and Muscat clubs, giving some background about their formation and some insight into what 2008 may hold for them.
After a very successful tournament last year, the Dubai Dingoes along with Specialist Mortgage and Australasian Taxation Services (SMATS Group) will today host the 2008 SMATS Dubai 9s competition. Ten teams will take part, with the Dingoes and the Heat (reigning champion) each splitting into two sides for the event. Last year's surprise-packet the Doha Kangaroos will be back, along with the Airmile Hawks and GAA sides Clann na hOman (as the Muscat Magpies) and the Dubai Celts. The Falcons, who are a new club from Abu Dhabi will make their debut (WFN will reveal more details about the club later in the week). The tournament will be held at the Sharjah Wanderer's Sports Club.
The Adelaide Crows and Dubai Heat have run out easy winners in their respective matches in the AFL's first foray into the Middle East. The main match, the NAB Cup opener between Adelaide and Collingwood, saw the Crows run away with the game 4.15.10 (136) to 0.7.13 (55) - note under NAB Cup rules goals from outside 50 metres are "supergoals", worth 9 points each. In the curtain raiser, the two local teams proved to be a mismatch, as the Dubai Heat defeated the Dubai Dingoes 11.8 (74) to 0.5 (5). Perhaps more important than either result (though tell that to Pies fans, who have been knocked out of the NAB Cup), was that the day appears to have gone very smoothly and the AFL are now talking up more pre-season games internationally.
The Dubai Dingoes' Joel Preston was extensively interviewed on Adelaide's top sports radio show, hosted by South Australian footy stalwarts Graham Cornes and K.G. Cunningham. Cornes was a star player with Glenelg in the SANFL and Cunningham a state cricketer and long serving football umpire. The duo are in Dubai for the NAB Cup opener between Adelaide and Collingwood, and have spent a lot of the time discussing Dubai and the conditions for football.
Reports suggest the field is in good condition, with interviewed Crows players saying it was firm but okay underfoot, despite a recent sandstorm. Temporary seating and amenities have been installed and a crowd of anywhere between 4000 and 10,000 has been predicted, though the lower end of that range is likely.
There's also been plenty of media for the event, some of which is listed here, but there's also apparently been some off-field talk that might not be healthy, though a recent update from Joel is that the situation should not be an issue on the day.
Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper today had a short article on the conversion of the Ghantoot Polo Club ground into an Aussie Rules venue.
Organizers are expecting a crowd of 5,000-7,000 spectators, with over one thousand tickets sold after they went on sale yesterday.
The club is surrounded by desert, around 40 minutes from downtown Dubai and roughly halfway between Dubai and the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. The ground will be 155m x 136m, which is similar to Melbourne's Telstra Dome at 160m x 129m. Curator in charge is Tony Hemming, who previously was in charge at the Telstra Dome, Optus Oval and Launceston's Aurora Stadium.