England look to 1966’s World Cup winners for inspiration

England have a tough challenge on their hands in their opening World Cup clash against Italy in the early hours on Sunday morning.
Ahmed Al Jabouri, an England football fan, says he enjoys the friendly, multinational atmosphere in the UAE during the World Cup. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Ahmed Al Jabouri, an England football fan, says he enjoys the friendly, multinational atmosphere in the UAE during the World Cup. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Kyle Sinclair

ABU DHABI // England have a tough challenge on their hands in their opening World Cup clash against Italy in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Games against Uruguay and Costa Rica could also be tricky, but fans are hopeful the team will not slip up.

England have just one World Cup title to their name, won in 1966 when they defeated West Germany 4-2 on their home turf. Since then, however, the nation has failed to advance further than the semi-finals.

“They should be able to make it to the last 16 this year,” said 36-year-old Ahmed Al Jubouri, who manages 11-a-side and 7-a-side teams in Dubai in his spare time. He used to play semi-professionally for Woking before he moved to the UAE to work as a project manager.

“I’m giving them a draw against Italy, a win against Costa Rica and, realistically, a loss against Uruguay. I think it will be tough – Uruguay and Italy look very organised and with Uruguay being South American, they have a great chance because of the weather conditions.”

Mr Al Jubouri has lived in the UAE for 8 years, and is looking forward to watching the games with expatriates from home and other nations.

“It is a bit different because you have to go to where the English fan base is to enjoy the games, but it is a nice atmosphere,” he said.

“There are a few places were they broadcast the games. It is different here but, in terms of entertainment, the world always gets behind the World Cup.

“We have all sorts of nationalities in my teams and, for a lot of them, their national team are not participating in the World Cup,” said Mr Al Jubouri. “They still enjoy watching the competition though. I think most of the guys in the Middle East follow either Spain or Brazil or Argentina, so you have a strong fan base for them here.”

He said that his ideal World Cup venues in Dubai were McGettigan’s bar, in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, or at the Hilton hotel at JBR.

Another popular venue in Dubai for football fans is Barasti, where a large, air-conditioned tent has been erected and two giant screens will make sure everyone has a view.

English fans in Abu Dhabi can usually be found in Le Meridien’s NRG sports bar, Heroes and PJ O’Reilly’s.

However, the timings of the games could be a problem for some fans. The clash against Italy kicks off at 2am UAE time on Sunday morning.

“That’s the downside,” said Mr Al Jubouri. “Most of England’s games are midnight plus, so that could be a hassle.”

The “Three lions” are currently ranked 10th in the world by Fifa and are captained by Steven Gerrard and coached by Roy Hodgson.

“I’d say it is a pretty decent team,” said 25-year-old sales manager Joe Street, who lives in Dubai. “There have not been as many major injuries this time round – Rooney, who hasn’t been fit for the last two World Cups [is fit], but Walcott’s not going, and that is a pretty big blow.

“It will be interesting watching it from the UAE. I was out here four years ago and I think the most unique thing is that it is such a multicultural country.

“You get so many people supporting different teams – it brings a different atmosphere.

“There are lot of nationalities here whose teams aren’t in the competition and one day they are wearing a Brazil shirt then the next Spain – you have to question their loyalty,” joked Mr Street, adding if all went to plan, he would love to see England go up against rivals Germany.

“It would be nice if we got through the groups and ended up facing Germany – not sure if we can meet them before the final.”

ksinclair@thenational.ae

Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM

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