A highlight of the Asian football calendar, the Asian Australian Football Championships are now less than a month away. The United Arab Emirates Heat are one of two countries to debut at this year's Championship - their squad comprised of players from the country’s two primary clubs; its namesake and football-pioneers the Dingoes. Below is a brief look at footy in the UAE following the Dubai 9s and the Heat's preparation for Bangkok next month, plus a correction to the article's first release.
The much talked about Collingwood versus Adelaide match proposed for Dubai (one of the seven emirates constituting the United Arab Emirates) moved a step closer this week with the likely venue getting a big tick from AFL ground operations manager Jill Lindsay. The US has found polo fields a good option for staging major Australian Football events such as their Nationals and it seems this trend will spread to the UAE, as the Dubai Polo Club has been ear-marked to host the likely match, probably as an exhibition game immediately before the usual NAB Cup tournament that precedes the regular season.
Early February 2008 is the likely time frame and Mark Stevens reports in the Herald Sun (see Dubai pre-season gets OK that the AFL believes it could attract a crowd of up to 10,000 people, thanks largely to the big Aussie expat community, so temporary stands would need to be erected. If the game goes ahead the AFL sees it as a "great opportunity to broaden the brand". A possible failing of past overseas forays has been to not link in with local communities to seed the game, so let's hope some ground work is done, including with local side the Dubai Dingoes, to make a lasting impact. This will be a challenge in the Muslim nation that has around 1.5 million residents but of which less than 20% are regarded as UAE nationals, with foreign workers making up the bulk of the population, mostly coming from India and surrounding countries.
Since the establishment of the Dubai Dingoes and their recent Dubai 9s tournament, there has been a flurry of football activity in the Middle East - additional clubs have been formed, rumour of a preseason AFL match in Dubai has surfaced and now we have been informed that preliminary talks have taken place investigating the possibility of league in the region, spanning as many as five countries. WFN spoke to Gary Johnson about the Doha Kangaroos and the heights footy might reach in the Middle East.
The Dubai Heat have overcome tournament hosts, the Dubai Dingoes to claim the title in the first ever Dubai 9s competition. The Heat went through the day undefeated and took out the final in convincing style. Below are the results and a report on the event, courtesy of the Dingoes.
As this month’s Dubai 9s approach, ARI and the Dubai Dingoes have released the schedule for matches and other events on the day. There has also been a slight alteration to the teams that will be attending, now including five squads from around the city of Dubai, one from Doha (Qatar) and a combined squad from Oman and Abu Dhabi.
Over the past few months, WFN has run two stories on the promising possibilities for Aussie Rules in Dubai. The first article, Dubai tries to get footy moving in the Middle East was about the city's newly formed football club, the Dingoes. The second, AFL match on the go for Dubai, spoke about an upcoming football match in Dubai, between AFL clubs Collingwood and Adelaide (scheduled for early 2008). Football in Dubai even made their local news, with Gulf News publishing an article on the Dingoes' story, although disappointingly, it was placed under the heading of rugby. Now the Dubai 9s tournament is on its way, with teams from Dubai, Oman and Qatar among those hoping to attend.
After all the media hype over the past year, Bachar Houli last night got the chance to let his football talents do the talking. The young Bomber was named to play in the evening’s NAB cup match against Carlton, held at Melbourne’s Telstra Dome. This level of match is arguably inferior only to a Premiership match (at least standard-wise), and depending on how the coaching staff rated his performance, it may help determine if and when he sees his first match for points.
Earlier this year, WFN ran a story on a a young Muslim, Bachar Houli and his aspirations to become the AFL's first high-profile Muslim footballer. For those that aren't aware, the draft took place last Saturday and Houli was fortunate enough to have been selected by Essendon with pick 42.
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.
As a Muslim and being of Lebanese extract, Bachar Houli is hardly the stereotypical footballer. Yet next week, Houli will pull on the Vic Metro jumper and represent his state in the Under-18 national competition. It is a big step for any footballer, let alone one who has had to struggle at times with the additional stresses of racial, religious and cultural differences.