Football season can be an expensive proposition for diehard fans who like to be in the middle of all the action. While many of the UAE's sports bars and dedicated fan zones promise a stadium-like feel and themed activities galore during the World Cup, some have a minimum entry charge that is not redeemable against food and drink.
Fortunately, at least four fan zones in Dubai are free to enter, and you can choose to pay as you go for any food and drinks. So, on the days you feel like celebrating without being left out of pocket, here's where to head.
This family-friendly fan zone is near City Walk's The Green Planet and spans 3,200 square metres. Not only does it offer fans a 96-square-metre screen to watch all the action on for free, but it also has free parking.
Other highlights include a PlayStation tournament before the semi-finals and final; regular football freestyle shows; a live DJ, who will celebrate any goals scored with thumping music and a smoke machine; face painting and other child-friendly activities.
November 20 to December 18; noon-1am; near The Green Planet, City Walk
Hilton Dubai Jumeirah
Beach babies can head (with their babies) to this waterfront hotel in Dubai Marina. Its outdoor Beach Stadium has no entry fee across four separate fan zones: The Beach, Tiger Bar, Wavebreaker and The Garden. It spans 1,600 square metres and each zone has several large screens and the capacity to host 1,000.
Other highlights include comfy sunbeds; views of Ain Dubai; live music; and activities for children.
November 20 to December 18; noon to late; The Walk JBR; 04 318 2319
City Centre Mirdif Stadium
This one is slightly cheeky in that it's free to enter for the first few matches, from Sunday until December 2. However, once the round of 16 starts from December 3, tickets will be priced between Dh50 and Dh150 for the family-friendly fan zone, which is located on the rooftop of City Centre Mirdif mall.
Some of its highlights include a dual match-screening zone that can accommodate 700; a food and beverage zone that can accommodate 150; football-themed activations and games; and a child-friendly zone with activities.
November 20 to December 18; 1pm-1am; Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, Mirdif; www.citycentremirdif.com
The Football Park
In theory, this is ideal for those who want a premium viewing experience. We are talking fine-dining menus, private lounges with butlers, a chauffeur service and a minimum fee of Dh350 for tables.
However, The Football Park can be accessed by walk-in guests with no entry fee and no minimum spend. Also, given its location on the podium level of the DIFC's Gate Avenue, the Football Park will have an outdoor screen that can be accessed at no cost. Located between Bite Me Burger and Kimbo Caffe, the free arena will also be serviced by kiosks such as PepsiCo (for food and drinks), Budweiser (for foosball tables) and Toshiba (for family-friendly activities) among others. The park will open an hour before the first match each day.
Be warned though, with all the action that's taking place inside the actual fan zone — including appearances from ex-footballers Robbie Fowler, Bacary Sagna, Harry Redknapp, Teddy Sheringham and Mikael Silvestre — you may well be tempted to book a table.
November 20 to December 18; Gate Avenue, the DIFC; book.chatfood.io
Scroll through the gallery below for Abu Dhabi venues screening the World Cup