ABU DHABI // They’re calling it Super Thursday – a day when athletes from all over the world push themselves to the limit on the pitch, in the ring and in the pool around the country.
UAE sports fans are spoilt for choice as three major sporting events – the Fifa U17 World Cup, Fina Swimming World Cup and the Dubai Desert Force Mixed Martial Arts – get under way on Thursday.
Billed as one of the largest football events the country has seen, the Fifa U17 World Cup will have 24 elite young national teams competing over three weeks.
The UAE team kick off against Honduras on Thursday night at 8pm at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Matches will be played in the capital, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah throughout the tournament.
Fans can also become involved at the official Fifa Fan Zone, which opens today on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche near the family and public beaches.
The fourth round of the Fina Swimming World Cup begins at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex, a venue that Olympic and world champion South African swimmer Chad Le Clos has called the best in the world.
It is the third time Dubai has hosted a leg of the swimming world cup and more than 200 swimmers from 41 countries will hit the pool on Thursday to compete.
Le Clos and Katinka Hosszu of Hungary head the list, which also includes Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia, Yulia Yefimova and Stanislav Donets of Russia, and Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Inge Dekker of the Netherlands.
Finally, the Desert Force Mixed Martial Arts championship begins at the American University in Dubai at 7pm.
Fighters from across the region will slug it out in a series of cage matches. The event was initially scheduled for October 4, but was moved because of scheduling problems for MBC Action TV, which is broadcasting the bouts.
The competitors from across the Middle East will fight in five weight classes, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight.
The UAE’s representatives include Sultan Ali Alowais who will face Abdulmalek Al Mardhi of Saudi Arabia, and Ahmad Al Darmaki who steps up against Noureldin Isam from Sudan.
Soren Korbo, honorary secretary of the Fina Technical Swimming Committee, said the body was happy to bring the World Cup leg back to Dubai.
“After being here just a matter of weeks ago for the very successful 4th Fina World Junior Championships, we are delighted to be back in Dubai again so soon,” said Soren Korbo, honorary secretary of the Fina Technical Swimming Committee.
“We always enjoy coming here and it is wonderful to see the rapid growth in swimming in Dubai.
“It is important to Fina that we continue to promote the development of swimming around the world and it is wonderful to be part of a great partnership with Dubai and the UAE as we work together to develop the sport here.”
Le Clos, who won the World Cup overall title in 2011, said: “My goal is to win the World Cup this year, then I have the Commonwealth Games next year where I want to do really well. Then of course I want to win Olympic gold again in 2016.”
He will also meet with youngsters participating in this year’s Children’s World Cup, taking place at the same time as the Fina event.
“Now that I have won international competitions I believe I have a responsibility to the next generation to be a good role model and to help them however I can,” said Le Clos.
The Children’s World Cup will feature 25 metre and 50m races and is open to any child who can swim the distance.