A guide to the football supporters' clubs in Dubai
There are few more rewarding experiences than standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow supporters as your football team overcome the odds to score a barely deserved, last-gasp winning goal, and while the feeling of watching the action unfold live in a stadium is difficult to replicate, surely the next best thing is to cheer, scream, laugh and – in some extreme cases – cry in a room full of near strangers?
For football supporters in Dubai, watching the game has no shortage of upsides given the quality of coverage, endless viewing spots and year-round sun. After all, who wants to be shivering on a windswept terrace in the depths of December in Europe when you could be strolling to a bar with the heat on your back ready to cool down with a few well-earned swift ones as you watch your team attempt to get the better of your bitter rivals? Perhaps understandably, some Dubai-based football supporters crave the stadium experience, but with the ever-increasing popularity of football supporters’ clubs here in the region, opportunities to go and watch the match among large numbers of fellow fans have never been more accessible.
Week after week, supporters of a particular club will gather together at a specific location in order to watch events from back in the UK unfold live on screen. Given the time difference, it can be a big commitment, but with the chance to experience that feeling of camaraderie which only watching a game alongside other fans can bring, it’s a commitment most supporters are only too happy to fulfil.
Neil Briody is chairman of the Dubai Reds, the official Liverpool Supporters’ Club within the region, who congregate en masse for every match at Goodfellas Sports Bar, which is located at the Ramee Rose Hotel in Barsha Heights. The Dubai Reds are the largest supporters’ group in the area, and Briody explains how it was initially formed: “The group was established in 2006 by two friends, its popularity quickly grew and within the first three years we had 300 members,” he says. “We’ve been based at Goodfellas for the past seven years having previously watched matches at The Underground, which is located in the Habtoor Grand.
“Not surprisingly, it’s a very diverse and multicultural supporters’ club, and inevitably we have a lot of Egyptian fans joining us to watch games given the Mohamed Salah link. We are one of the supporters’ clubs officially recognised by the club, which means they provide us with a ticket allocation for six matches per year, which enables some of our members to get over to Anfield to watch matches. Last May, there was a group of 60 of us from the supporters’ club who went to Kiev to watch the Champions League final, which was a great experience.
“The better the team perform, the more people we have coming along to watch the matches. The end of the 2013/14 season, when we almost won the league, was crazy, and obviously with the side challenging for the title again this season it’s been very busy for most matches.”
While Liverpool may boast the largest supporters’ club in Dubai, there are no shortage of others, with the majority of Premier League clubs, as well as some of the biggest sides from across Europe, well represented in an ever-expanding scene which enables fans to get their football fix in a social setting while catching up with friends and, if the result goes the right way, perhaps even making some new ones.
For those supporters’ groups, like the Dubai Reds, who are officially recognised by the club they follow, it can lead to fantastic opportunities. Earlier this March, the Manchester United Supporters’ Club (MUSC – UAE), who watch games at The Red Lion, which is situated at the Metropolitan Hotel, welcomed their former defender Wes Brown along to cheer on the Red Devils in their game against Arsenal. Brown also took part in a Q&A session for those fans in attendance. United may have lost the match, but the presence of Brown, and the opportunity to watch the game alongside one of their former heroes, ensured it was an evening to remember. Engagement and interaction with ex-players, as Briody explains, is now becoming more and
“Last May we were visited out here by LFC World, a group which included former players Steven Gerrard, Steve McManaman and Gary McAllister, and I was given the opportunity to present them with a small gift to mark their trip, which was obviously great,” he says. “That was followed by a supporters’ group event at Barasti where over 300 fans watched our final game of the season on the beach together.
“Then in January Peter Moore, Liverpool’s chief executive, came over and took part in a Q&A session at Goodfellas which was attended by lots of supporters.
It was a really interesting talk because he gave us some insight into the work being done by the club within the region, as well as the local community, and how they want to continue to grow.”
Chelsea supporters meet up for every match at McGettigan’s in Souk Madinat, while Southampton fans can be found watching their fixtures at Barasti, which they have recently re-named the ‘Iron Fran Arena’ in tribute to club legend Francis Benali, who is aiming to complete seven Iron Mans in as many days in order to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
The Aston Villa Supporters’ Club in Dubai (Dubai Lions), meanwhile, are out in force for every match at the Rose & Crown in Al Habtoor City where they were visited by homegrown midfielder, and scorer of their winning goal against local rivals Birmingham City earlier in March, Jack Grealish.
Toby Young runs the Chelsea group (UAE CSC), and provides some insight into its growth, as well as highlighting the importance of there being places for like-minded individuals to go and watch football together: “The UAE CSC started out in the early 2000s when there were just 16 members, and we now have over 100,” he explains. “It was set up by supporters, for supporters, and we are officially recognised by the club. It’s fantastic for us to be able to give people who may otherwise have nothing in common, apart from their love of Chelsea, an opportunity to come together, have a few drinks and watch
“My working hours are Monday to Friday, which means my social life can at times be a bit skewed, but when I first came over here I always knew that on a Saturday I would be able to go along to a bar and watch the Chelsea game, which was great. Our members are able to secure tickets to go and watch Chelsea through us, and for some of them, who may never have been to a live game, they’ve had the best experiences of their lives going over and attending a match for the first time.”
Young admits attendance levels can fluctuate, particularly for midweek matches when kick-off time in Dubai can sometimes be close to midnight, but he has certainly enjoyed some great times watching games alongside fellow fans: “For the Carabao Cup final recently we had about 50 supporters watching the game together, and the FA Cup final last May, when we beat Manchester United, was another really busy, great night.”
McGettigan’s is an extremely popular bar with some of the British supporters’ groups. Celtic’s Dubai Hoops, like fans of Chelsea and Everton, watch games at the venue, although the Scottish club’s fans favour the DWTC branch. Ahead of their fixtures, families are invited to arrive early in order to watch a live band and take advantage of special drinks offers, solidifying the notion that it’s about more than simply turning up to a bar for 90 minutes to watch a game. With many people living away from home, and unable to call on friends and family members they have traditionally watched football matches with, these supporters’ groups can become a huge source of comfort.
For fans of Celtic’s big Glasgow rivals, the only place to be every weekend is the Centre Circle Bar in the Ramada Chelsea Hotel, Al Barsha, where the Dubai Loyal Rangers Supporters’ Club can be found. Established 17 years ago, the group aims to bring together all of the club’s supporters across the Middle East and, like many of its counterparts, holds a variety of other sporting and social events.
Of course, football isn’t solely restricted to the British Isles. Right now, the game is bigger globally than ever before and fans of European powerhouses such as Barcelona and Real Madrid – arguably the two biggest clubs in the world – can also join supporters’ clubs in Dubai to watch their teams in action. In an interview with sportjournal.ae, Fatima Dergham, vice president of the first Real Madrid supporters’ club to be set up in Dubai, explains the reasons behind its inception: “We started the fan club because we wanted the Madridistas in Dubai and UAE to have a home where they could gather, meet people who feel the colours of our club, experience the joy of celebrating titles together as well as sharing the frustration that football sometimes makes you feel, and I believe we’ve succeeded as we currently have members from over ten nationalities, different religions and backgrounds that are united by the same feeling and love of the same club.”
Arsenal UAE is now in its eighth year, with Dubai-based Gooners able to watch matches at Q, located at the Holiday Inn Al Barsha, and Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters (Dubai Wolves) can be found quenching their collective thirsts and roaring on Nuno Espirito Santo’s side at garden on 8, located at the Media One Hotel, on a matchday. The number of supporters’ clubs based in the area is rising rapidly, and only likely to increase in the near future.
For Briody, who has witnessed the scene expand over recent years, the organisational element of the supporters’ groups, particularly those who are officially recognised by the clubs they follow, has come on leaps and bounds. With so many football clubs, especially those at the highest level, now eager to tap into the overseas market, it seems the rise of the supporters’ clubs in places such as Dubai could prove to be mutually beneficial for all parties in the long-term.
“I think the supporters’ clubs are now becoming more structured,” he says. “Where it used to just be a group of mates going to a pub to watch a game, it’s now far more organised and with larger numbers. We now have to conform to things such as club branding, so we will get sent the right type of branding to use, and we also have a supporters’ club in Abu Dhabi who have to do the same. Clubs now want to grow a footprint abroad so that’s how it is.”
Are you part of a supporters’ club which we haven’t mentioned in this article? If so, get in touch and let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Had enough of running around an empty room to celebrate your team scoring? Experience the matchday feeling among your fellow fans at the following local spots…
Where: Goodfellas, Ramee Rose Hotel, Barsha Heights
Find them online: dubaireds.com
Where: McGettigan’s Souk Madinat, Umm Suqeim
Find them online: facebook.com/UAECSC
Manchester United F.C.
Where: The Red Lion, The Metropolitan Dubai Hotel
Find them online: facebook.com/MUSC.UAE
Where: Barasti,Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh
Find them online: twitter.com/dubaisaints
Aston Villa F.C.
Where: Rose & Crown, The Atrium, Al Habtoor City
Find them online: facebook.com/DubaiLionsAVFC
Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.
Where: garden on 8, Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City
Find them online: twitter.com/DubaiWolves
Where: McGettigan’s DWTC, Dubai World Trade Centre
Find them online: facebook.com/dubaihoopscelticsupporters
Where: Centre Circle Bar, Ramada Chelsea Hotel, Al Barsha
Find them online: thedesertbears.org
Where: Q Sports Bar and Lounge, Holiday Inn Al Barsha
Find them online: twitter.com/afcuae
Everton F.C .
Where: McGettigan’s Souk Madinat, Umm Suqeim
Find them online: twitter.com/everton_dubai
Birmingham City F.C.
Where: Crown and Lion, Byblos Hotel, Barsha
Find them online: bluesmiddleeast.com
Where: Barrel 12, Palm Jumeirah
Premier League: Manchester City
This one looks set to go right to the wire. Pep has been there and done it, while Klopp knows a place in the history books awaits if he can guide Liverpool to a first top-flight title in almost 30 years. One defeat for either side at this stage could prove costly, but with Liverpool looking a little nervy in recent weeks and City seemingly clicking into gear at a crucial time, I’m going for them to edge it. But only just.
Mark Conlon, ShortList’s Associate Editor
Champions League: Manchester United
As a Mancunian – the proper half – I’m backing Manchester United to go all the way. Since being parachuted in to clean up the Special One’s capitulation, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has fired up the Reds, broken club records, promoted youth and reinstalled the club’s attacking philosophy. That night in Paris was one of the club’s greatest nights in Europe. And, with Ole at the wheel, we’re bracing ourselves to party like it’s 1999. Again.
Lizzie Levenshulme, ShortList Contributor
BEST OF THE REST
It’s not all about football, check out these bars to watch some of your other favourite sports
Golf at Spike Bar
Spike Bar excels thanks to a combination of classy interiors and first-class service. With 16 screens and sporting memorabillia adorning the walls there is no better ploace to watch Tiger and Rory showcase abilities most men only dream of aspiring to.
Where: Spike Bar, Emirates Golf Club
Contact: +9714 417 9842
Rugby at The Irish Village
The Irish are renowned for their love of the oval-shaped ball, meaning when the men in green take to the field you are guaranteed to find an electric atmosphere. Win, lose or draw, pints of the black stuff flow freely throughout, making it an enjoyable time for all.
Contact: +9714 282 4750
Boxing at Kickers
With five large projector screens, plus a number of standard-sized TVs, there are few better places to watch the likes of AJ and Tyson Fury flex their muscles than Kickers Bar. A hearty breakfast on offer for those early bouts makes it a knockout choice.
Where: Kickers Bar, Dubai Sports City
Contact: +9714 448 1001
Basketball at McGettigan’s JBR
While accessing NBA matches in Dubai may not be as easy as finding football or rugby bars, McGettigan’s is one of the places which does show the highly paid athletes strut their stuff.
Where: Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, JBR
Contact: +9714 318 2580