Saturday, January 27, 2007
The 18th Arabian Gulf Cup certainly has a (very) low profile in the UK which is a bit of a shame. The UAE & the Gulf area in general is a progressive, prosperous & safe region keen to promote sporting events & in January presents a pleasant location to visit. Having said that hotels are certainly not cheap though transport is - you can travel by communal taxi to Dubai for as little as £1.50.
Getting into the games during this tournament is also not costly. In fact its free as tickets are given away. However this does mean for UAE games in particular the entrances can be closed some hours before the kick-off.
The eight teams in the Cup split into two groups to play in three stadia , all in Abu Dhabi, one of which is walkable from the city centre. The standard is decent (bearing in mind the saudis are regulars at the World Cup) , technically reasonably competent & organised.
Many of the games had plenty of drama with a number of sendings off & late goals.
No one player stood out except (eventually) UAE's Ismail Mattar who went on to score the decisive goals.
Amongst the teams , apart from the home side, the Iraqis had the biggest support - though most were local workers. They were part of large ex-pat community meaning Abu Dhabi can resemble Mumbai at times.
Amongst the mosques, skyscrapers & luxury hotels there is an exceptional quality of life for some locals & a good selection of sporting events to attend (this correspondent also went to the Abu Dhabi Golf tournament) in the winter.
A date for your diary - in 2013 the Gulf Cup is scheduled to be staged in Iraq.