Regular achievers the Dubai Heat will take on the Muscat Magpies this Friday to conclude the inaugural AFL Middle East season. The two clubs meet at The Sevens, a rugby stadium on the outskirts of Dubai. For those interested, the day kicks of at 11am and will also include Auskick, a reserves match between the Heat and the Dubai Dragons, and a playoff for third between the Dubai Dingoes and Abu Dhabi Falcons. Local media have committed to covering the event in print, on television and a local sports radio program.
Read on for a summary of the first season and a preview of the two Grand Finalists.
When the AFL announced that one of the teams partaking in the 2008 International Cup would be comprised of Israelis and Palestinians, a few voices in the international football community expressed skepticism. Whilst football competitions existed previously in Israel, there had been no major football news from the region in years. Some questioned whether the Peace Team's involvement in the tournament would lead to a football presence in Israel and Palestine afterwards or if it was simply an AFL publicity stunt.
Positive news from The Peres Centre for Peace today, suggests that the AFL made the right decision.
The AFL Middle East got underway on Friday 24 October, with three matches in three different Gulf countries. Over 400 spectators attended the matches, giving a strong indication that the league will be a success.
In a Dubai derby, the Heat defeated the newly-formed Dragons, whilst the city's third club ventured to Qatar to defeat the Doha Kangaroos. In the third match, the Muscat Magpies defeated the visiting Abu Dhabi Falcons.
AFL Middle East Commercial Manager Stephen Nugent gave us a run-down of first round results.
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.