UAE Travel Guide
Sports in the UAE
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New sports are becoming popular alongside traditional camel racing. Examples include include golf, with two European Tour events in the country (the Dubai Desert Classic and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship) and the world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, held annually in March.
Aside from the international circuit events, the UAE has a healthy indigenous sporting environment with the local community participating in a wide variety of clubs and establishments. The seven emirates regularly compete in national leagues and cups in a multiplicity of sports that are controlled by specialized governing bodies.
The country itself is a prime location for sporting events. The high quality sporting venues, in addition to the climate, ensure the continuation of activities throughout the winter season. Construction of Dubai Sports City is underway to take advantage of these benefits, and to establish the country as a hub for sports throughout the world.
The UAE has a huge interest in football. 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 U.A.E. football team qualified for the 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.
The UAE National Team won the 2005 Kirin Cup, sharing the cup with Peru after a 1–0 victory over host country Japan. The UAE team played a four-team friendly in Switzerland in July 2005, in which they beat both Qatar and Kuwait but lost 5–4 on penalties in the final against Egypt.
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 soccer championship held in Abu Dhabi 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 under 16 football team qualified for the 2009 Youth world cup which will be held in Nigeria. The UAE under 19 football team was also qualified for the World Youth Cup finals to be held in Egypt next year.
The Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships 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 21 to February 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. Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in Sharjah has hosted 4 international Test matches so far. Sheikh Zayed Stadium and Al Jazira Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi also host international cricket. Dubai has two cricket stadiums with a third, 'S3' currently under construction as part of Dubai Sports City. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council.
The United Arab Emirates national cricket team qualified for the 1996 Cricket World Cup and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
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. 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.
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.
In February 2007 it was announced that Bernie Ecclestone had signed a seven year deal with Abu Dhabi, to host a Formula 1 race there from the 2009 season. The 5.6 km circuit is to be set on Yas Island and it will include street and marina sections similar to Monaco's course.
Rugby Union Sevens
U.A.E. hosts Dubai Sevens round of the IRB Sevens World Series. Previously this was held at Dubai Exiles Rugby Ground, but from 2008 onwards it has been held at the new stadium The Sevens on the Dubai-Al Ain road.
The U.A.E. is well-known for its falconry as it is also considered a traditional sport. Many of UAE's rulers were enthusiasts in falconry as the nation imports falcons from all across the globe. 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 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 Gyrfalcons, and Gyrfalcons have become regionally extinct across much of Central Asia. Golden Eagles and Houbara Bustards are also critically endangered in Central Asian regions where falconry is practiced.
Endurance riding and racing is a national 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. The UAE claim to be the global leaders of the sport and are campaigning for it to be in the olympics. At the top level, horses cover 160 km in a day.
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