Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup in Dubai

Well, I find myself in Dubai for the World Cup.  Its different from previous World Cups as the games are in prime time (from 3pm through to midnight) and the local TV coverage is in a shambolic mess.  In Australia, the coverage is free and excellent courtesy of SBS but you have to get up at 3am to watch the games.

In the Emirates and in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the main TV network is Orbit Showtime.  They dominate TV here in the UAE but the thing is - they dont have the rights to the World Cup.  The Middle Eastern rights were secured by Al Jazeera (many of you may be familiar with their news channels) who are based in Qatar.

Now Orbit Showtime do have Al Jazeera news as part of their package and you have some of their basic channels (in Arabic only) as part of the package, but nobody has access to their English language sports channels which includes the World Cup.  So, Dubai has been a scramble as people try to get Al Jazeera connected.  Not an easy task as you need a different decoder box (approx 1000 dirhams) and sign up to their service which apparently is another 700 dirhams.  Supplies - in true middle eastern style - are too short for demand and nobody I know has managed to get connected successfully.

As a result, I am only able to watch the games in my lounge room with Arabic commentary.

The second thing also to consider being an Australian in Dubai in the World Cup is that nobody rates Australia and it gets zero mention in the press.  Whilst Australian media are all over us, here I can't even buy an imitation jersey as the market is swamped with English, Brazil, Argentina and German gear.  Not a single piece of Socceroo paraphernalia in the entire country I don't think!  And of course not alot of Aussies at my work or neighbourhood who share the enthusiasm of our chances.

So last night, I went with my English neighbours to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel to see England vs USA.  99% of the 2000 strong crowd were English, 0.95% of the crowd were American and I was the 0.05% being the token Aussie.  Sure, I was polite, but was silently cheering on the Americans... hehe.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw and the English turned rabid against their team.  Before the game they were touting the side as the best thing since 1966 but after they "were all a bunch of donkeys" and were "rubbish" and had the knives out for a number of players.  I guess I experienced the Fleet Street press mentality up close!  To me, a scrapping 1-1 draw in a World Cup is nothing to be worried about as you can live to fight another day.

Tonight though will be another big "odd experience" for me.  One of my English neighbours is a client of a German contracting firm who invited he and a few friends (including me) to watch the Germany vs Australia game.  So I will, in my Socceroos cap and draped Aussie flag, be sitting in an all expenses paid function hosted by Germans.  Should be interesting!  My English friends are supporting Australia, so I won't exactly be alone, but it will be daunting sitting in a room of Germans chanting "Aussie Aussie Aussie" and getting weird looks.... Particularly when we win 1-0!  LOL!

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