UAE football fans score chance to see Champions League trophy

The trophy arrived at Yas Mall as a prelude to the opening of the UEFA Champions League Experience, a new retail and casual dining outlet scheduled to open in June.

Kenyan Ali Muhidin Ali kisses the UEFA Champions League trophy that was on display at Yas Mall yesterday. Christopher Pike / The National
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Abu Dhabi // Europe’s most coveted football trophy made its first UAE appearance in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Yas Mall on Friday.

The crowd gathered for the unveiling of the Uefa Champions League trophy, awarded each year to the winner of the world’s most prestigious club football competition.

The event was a prelude to the Uefa Champions League Experience, a retail and casual-dining outlet opening next month at the mall, said Leigh-Ann Lanier, director of strategic marketing for Marka, one of the groups behind the new concept.

Bringing the new football attraction to Abu Dhabi was the logical choice thanks to the sport’s popularity in the region, Ms Lanier said.

“We know football is the number one sport in terms of viewership,” she said. “It’s a sport that kids grow up with.”

She said, they were looking to generate a buzz in the lead up to this year’s Champions League final, which is set for June 6 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

“What better way to do this than by bringing the trophy to Yas Mall,” she said. “We’ve seen the tremendous passion that fans have here.”

An orchestra of violins, cellos, drums and horns played the Champion’s League theme song, with operatic singers, as the trophy was taken before a large audience of all ages.

Many football fans were in awe of the large silver trophy, which stands 73.5cm tall, weighs 7.5kg, and has the names of every team to have won it engraved on it.

“It’s amazing,” said Jordanian Waleed Khalid, 33. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

After its appearance over the weekend in Abu Dhabi, the trophy will travel to Berlin, where it will soon be held by this season’s winners. The competition is at the semi-final stage, with Italian club Juventus going up against Real Madrid, and Barcelona taking on German giants Bayern Munich in this week’s first legs.

All sporting the colours of Bayern Munich, the Marshall family from the United States, were at the mall to see the trophy.

“It’s exciting,” said Laura Marshall, a mother of two.

“We’re hoping to be the good luck charms that will draw the trophy to Bayern.”

“It’s bigger than I expected,” said her husband, Jeff, of the famed silverware.

Showing his temporary tattoo of the Champions League logo, Ali Al Jaberi, 30, came to see the trophy that he hopes will be carried by his favourite team, Real Madrid.

“This is a great moment,” he said. “This is fantastic.”