Dubai is set to welcome some of the world's top football players when the 'Footvolley' World Cup comes to the Middle East for the first time.
UAE is the only country from the region to take up this sport and will be among the 32 teams from 27 countries who will be vying for honours when the tournament is held on three specially constructed pitches at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence from October 27 to 29.
The main pitch will have a seating capacity of 3,000 while the two side pitches will be able to accommodate 500 spectators each.
Held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, and under the supervision of the General Authority of Youth Welfare and Sports and the UAE Volleyball Association, the inspiration behind footvolley in the UAE is the former Al Shabab midfielder Jamal Saif.
"This is the first time footvolley is being held in Middle East. First time the footvolley World Cup is being held in Dubai. First time UAE footvolley team will be
playing in the World Cup," Saif, the event organiser and member of the two-member team along with Mohammed Rashid, said proudly.
Although having retired prematurely from football nearly two decades ago to pursue other goals, 40-year-old Saif is excited like a child to see his dream come true.
"I began promoting footvolley three years with the help of Brazil coaches from Al Nasr, Al Shabab and Al Wasl by training on the beaches in the night," he said speaking of the evolution of footvolley in the UAE.
"Then we took part in tournaments in Portugal and Brazil. We want to give a good performance being the only team from the Middle East in the competition," said Saif.
Footvolley was created in Brazil by Octavio de Moraes way back in 1965, in Rio de Janeiro’s famed Copacabana Beach, it has come to grow in popularity internationally including Europe, the United States and Asia. It is a combination of football and beach volleyball but without the use of hands.
“Many Brazilian football superstars like Romario and Ronaldinho play this sport,” said the tournament director.
“It is an exciting sport to watch and play. It is a great exercise as well. With our beaches and people from all over the world living here, I believe this sport will catch on.
“The World Cup should really help us in promoting it. It is very similar to beach volleyball, but the net is lower.”
Head of the Organising Committee Amer Ali said: “We are happy to announce this tournament in Dubai. We are planning it in a big way and we hope to see many interesting matches during the tournament."
“This is very similar to beach Volleyball and is a spectator friendly sport. I’m sure the people coming to watch this will love it,” said the president of the UAE volleyball association at a press conference to launch the event on Monday.
The official website for the competition (www.footvolleyuae.com) was launched by Dr. Ahmad Al Sharif, Secretary General, DSC in the presence of other members from the organizing committee and sponsors’ representatives.
Dr Al Sharif said: “We tried to bring this sport for many years and we have succeeded in bringing it this year. We have some excellent beaches in the world and they are really long ones.
“We thought of making good use of it and bringing this event to Dubai was a great achievement.
“Jamal Saif has worked really hard for this tournament.
“Without his efforts, it would not have been possible. He tried for many years to bring this tournament here and he has finally succeeded. He created a very good team to help him organise the event."
Brazil will have four teams participating. Others in the fray for glory are teams from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, USA, Canada, Spain, Germany, Italy, England, Czech Republic, Russia, Belgium, Estonia, France, Croatia, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Singapore and Thailand.
The 32 teams will be divided into eight groups of four each for the preliminary rounds with the top two from each group advancing to the knock-out stages of the competition.
The competition is sponsored by Emirates NBD, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), Adidas and Definitely Dubai.