Coronavirus Pandemic

UAE: Cricket fans excited about watching IPL, T20 World Cup at stadiums

James Jose /Dubai Filed on August 19, 2021


NCEMA allows 60% vaccinated spectators to catch live action at UAE’s domestic football league.

A fan, the 12th man in the beautiful game, will mark a return to a stadium, as 60 per cent of vaccinated spectators are allowed to watch UAE’s domestic football league, which kicks off on Thursday, amid adherence to all precautionary norms because of the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

The relief will bring a semblance of sporting activities in the country, as it prepares for a blockbuster back-to-back cricket tournaments such as the unfinished edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the ICC T20 World Cup, which will be held in the country, in September-October and October-November, respectively.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) has allowed vaccinated fans’ return to stadiums.

Cricket is the biggest draw among multicultural UAE residents and fans are looking forward to passing through the turnstiles of the three stadiums — the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium — that are steeped in history.

Indian expatriate Mohammed Zaheer, who has been living in the UAE since 1995, is one of the avid cricket fans and is eagerly waiting for both the IPL and the ICC T20 World Cup.

“The return of IPL to the UAE is heartening news for cricket lovers like us,” said Zaheer.

“We’re thrilled that international cricket and IPL is back in the country,” said an Abu Dhabi resident, who works for an airline and plays the game at a club level.

He felt that the two upcoming cricket tournaments would pique the interests of Emiratis and be a big boost to the popularity of the sport. Zaheer, too, echoed the Abu Dhabi resident.

The biggest game of the ICC T20 World Cup is to be played on October 24, when India is billed to clash against arch-rival Pakistan. “I want to watch the game with my son,” said Zaheer, whose son, Mohammed Riyan, has represented the UAE at the Under-19 level.

This will also be the third time, when he is likely to get to watch India taking on Pakistan. Earlier it was in 2004, when the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi was inaugurated and the Champions Trophy final at The Oval in London in 2017.

He is also looking forward to a “recreation of the Sharjah magic”.

Kamran Akram Gul, a passionate cricket lover from Pakistan, plans to watch all the IPL matches.

Gul, who belongs to Karachi and has been living in Dubai for the past 13 years, is fervently hoping that spectators would be allowed to watch the games.

“I’m a big fan of Virat Kohli, who plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore,” he added.

There are football fans, too, who love the gentleman’s game.

Madhurjya Phukan, who hails from the most populous northeastern state of Assam, which is considered to be big on football, has been an avid supporter of Argentinian soccer team and is looking forward to watching a game at a stadium.

“Though I’m a football fan and have been a lifelong supporter of Argentina, I love watching sport and this winter would be a dream for any sports fan in the UAE because of these two big events,” said Phukan, a geologist, who lives in Abu Dhabi. He had watched the Fifa Club World Cup final between FC Barcelona and Estudiantes at Zayed Sports City in 2009.

Rajasthan Royals is his favourite team in IPL because of one of its players Riyan Parag, who is his country cousin from Assam.

“I hope to take my family if spectators are allowed in a stadium,” he added.

Bangladeshi fan Al Amin has hedged his bets on the Bangla Tigers qualifying from the first round to the Super 12.

“It’d be awesome to watch our Bangla Tigers in action here,” said Amin.

“I’m rooting for them and I’m confident that they will qualify for the Super 12. I plan to catch the action live with my friends, if fans are allowed into the stadium,” he added.

Initially, an edition of the IPL was held in the UAE in 2014 because of the parliamentary elections in India, and later also last year due to the raging viral outbreak back home.

The current edition will be a truncated version because matches were suspended in May because of the lethal second wave. The ICC T20 World Cup, which was to be hosted, had to be shifted to Oman and the UAE because of the contagion

(All of the fans Khaleej Times spoke to have been fully vaccinated in line with the NCEMA guidelines)

James Jose

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