The Beautiful Game

The World Cup is a very important way to measure the good players, and the great ones. It is a test of a great player.” Pele

Love it or hate, lets face it for the next month you just have to embrace it! Yes, I’m talking about the FIFA World Cup that starts today in Brazil and will dominate our lives and televisions for the foreseeable future. All the hype and extensive media coverage ramps up today with the opening ceremony and the first match where host nation Brazil takes on Croatia in Group A (Mexico and Cameroon also playing in that group).

ImageThe world will be watching the month-long football extravaganza (source:FIFA)

Abu Dhabi is well and truly on the World Cup bandwagon (football is big business here with Sheikh Mansour owning Manchester City) with huge air-conditioned tents popping up all over the capital to host football parties and screenings. Most local hotels and establishments are embracing the huge potential of hosting football themed events, extending their opening hours to accommodate the time difference of the matches (The Irish Bar, McGettigans has even re-decorated part of their bar walls with a dressing room area and large fixtures list wall).

IMG_5371Half price beverages for the rest of the match if a red card is shown at McGettigans this World Cup (source:(www.facebook.com/mcgettigansauh)

We are off to the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel tonight’s to watch the guaranteed colourful spectacular and festivities of the opening ceremony in their stylish 600-person capacity tent located on the beach, with a couple of Brazilian ladies who are sure to be super excited. I find it crazy that this is our second World Cup living here in Abu Dhabi, really I know I say it a lot, but time sure flies by fast living here. There have been a lot of changes here since the last World Cup was staged in South Africa in 2010, lots of people we know have departed and there has been much development in the capital so many new venues have sprang up across the city, offering more opportunities to watch the matches this time around.

ImageOur choosen venue for the opening ceremony and first match of Brazil vs. Croatia (source:www.facebook.com/fairmontbabalbahr)

In addition to McGettigans (who will serve half price beverages for the remainder of a game if a red card is shown) and the Fairmont, other venues on my list to try are the Du Forum at Yas Island which will be a popular viewing venue as it’s the capitals largest World Cup fanzone, with matches showing on a huge 6m x 4m LED screen and lots of prizes up for grabs for fans of all nations in their competitions and the Shangri-La Hotel which is offering a surround sound experience in their Arabesque tent.

Image(source:http://www.thinkflash.ae/events/world-football-celebrations)

Three years of qualification matches culminate for the teams of the thirty-two competing countries involved in sixty-four matches in the most famous football tournament in the world. Brazil has been busy, not without controversy, for its hosting duties, building and redeveloping stadiums in twelve cities across the country and the pressure is on to capitalise on the home advantage and keep the 100% record alive where all the four previous South American hosted World Cups have been won by South American teams. Of course our interest, along with most of the large expat population here, is supporting England. Current World Cup holders Spain, who defeated the Netherlands in the 2010 final 1-0, will face them again in the group stages this year, with them both playing in Group B along with Australia and Chile.

ImageWorld Cup Group D schedule (source:www.thenational.ae)

Competing in Group D, England are up against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in a tough group (making excuses already as per…) for Roy Hodgson’s squad. Will the experienced Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney outplay Uruguay’s Luis Suarez? Will England even make it out of the group stages? Who knows? Much anticipation lies ahead of England’s first match on Sunday against Italy (showing at 2am here, yawn). Could this be England’s year………..or could disappointment reign again? Positive thoughts people!

ImageThe official Instagram of the FIFA World Cup, Brazil (source:Instagram)

If you are a fan of Instagram you follow the official FIFAWORLDCUP account for all the latest photos, download the free FIFA app on your smartphone or keep a track of the latest action and read all the news at www.fifa.com/worldcup

ImageThe coveted World Cup trophy and the official match ball (source:www.thenational.ae)

Two UAE match predicting camels have got football fever and have caught the attention of the local media, with many stories and even videos featured for a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour. Racing camels Shaheen and Waslawi from Emirati’s Matar Al Jabri’s camel farm in Dubai will be making predictions throughout the tournament. Waslawi has made the controversial prediction that Croatia will beat host nation Brazil in the opening match and Shaheen has backed the Netherlands to beat the defending champions Spain. The camels have a tough act to follow, as in the last World Cup the now deceased ‘Paul the Octopus’ was allegedly accurate in his predictions.

ImageAl Jabri wearing his distinctive yellow kandura with his World Cup predicting camel Waslawi at his farm in Dubai (source:www.thenational.ae)

Al Jabri is a crazy mad football fan who dresses in a distinctive yellow kandura and matching sandals in support of his favourite football team Al Wasl, he even drives a yellow 4 x 4 and wears yellow Ray-Bans. Ironically the camels, who live in yellow sheds, don’t share their owners passion for the colour as they selected the country flags with no yellow on them. Six-year-old Waslawi (also known as Musaihan) is Al Jabri’s prize camel and was champion of the season finals at Dubai’s Marmoum track in May and Shaheen is a five-year old who has yet to prove a star of the track and carries the common name of his pedigree.

ImageShaheen taking a rest between predictions (source:www.gulfnews.com)

Camel Predictions so far: June 12 – Croatia to beat Brazil, June 13 – Netherlands to beat Spain, June 16 – Portugal to beat Germany and June 19 – England to draw with Uruguay. Let’s hope they don’t get the hump if they’re wrong – tee hee!

If you need more help choosing where you want to watch the matches read Time Out Abu Dhabi’s ‘Where to watch the World Cup in Abu Dhabi’ guide here