Dubai: And so, it’s about coronavirus these days. A majority of the sporting events across the UAE have either been postponed or cancelled. The start to this gentle cascading sporting events stoppage was made on February 27 when the UAE Tour was called off overnight with two stages yet to be contested. The fortnight-long Dubai Tennis Championships were also nearing their business end, but organisers Dubai Duty Free insisted everything was in order to run the last two days and conclude yet another successful tournament that was highlighted with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic winning a fifth crown here.
After that came the weeklong Asia/Oceania Group I Fed Cup for women involving national teams of China, India, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan, South Korea and Indonesia. This competition too went through, although with limited attendance figures more due to the unwilling nature of local residents in attending such events.
However, one event that has certainly gone ahead — but without supporters in the stands — is the UAE FA’s Arabian Gulf League (AGL). Every week, a total of seven matches are being played out with no one to encourage and cheer the players on the field. The media, of course, is allowed to come and cover the matches normally.
So how exactly does one tend to these matches? What exactly is the mindset as one sits in an empty stadium covering an event?
Al Nasr hosted Khor Fakkan in the 19th round of the AGL late on Friday. No spectators to welcome the teams. No fans to cheer the players, except the coaches, the support staff and the substitutes’ benches barking out orders and instructions to those on the field, while the media watched quietly from the tribunes.
That was a new experience in itself. And then suddenly, a group of Al Nasr fans landed outside the main gate chanting, goading and encouraging their team forward in trying to break the deadlock. Those fans must have resided outside the gate for a few minutes, but that was all that was needed perhaps as Al Nasr opened the scoring as Glauber Sequeira Lima leapt over goalkeeper Mohammad Yousuf to nod in the only goal of the match in the 64th minute.
The security then intervened and dispersed the fans. The match came to an end. Ninety minutes. One goal. Three points. No one to applaud.
The show must go on.