Ugly scenes outside The Sevens as fans denied entry for Real Madrid v AC Milan

Police order stadium entrance closed at half-time due to unexpected onslaught of fans in Dubai as about 2,000 spectators denied access, reports Gary Meenaghan.
Fans started to pack The Sevens Stadium in Dubai nearly three hours before kick-off on Tuesday. Ali Haider / EPA
Fans started to pack The Sevens Stadium in Dubai nearly three hours before kick-off on Tuesday. Ali Haider / EPA

The fence outside The Sevens swayed as an angry face appeared from amid the crowd. It shouted at security and horse-mounted police, demanding a refund. Other faces joined in, demanding entry.

It was half-time at the Dubai Football Challenge on Tuesday night and about 2,000 people – many of whom had purchased tickets for the sold-out event – were being held behind a fence at the entrance after being told they would not be allowed in to watch Real Madrid play AC Milan.

Read more: AC Milan prove their worth in 4-2 victory over Real Madrid in Dubai

Organisers had advised those who had purchased tickets, the cheapest of which cost Dh200, to arrive in plenty of time for the 8pm kick-off. By 5.30pm the stadium was already more than 50 per cent full, yet as the game started, thousands of people were still streaming in and by 8.30pm, the police had ordered the entrances be closed.

By half-time, the stands looked overcrowded, some exits were blocked by standing spectators and the 200-seat press box was filled with fans and their families. A young woman working as an usher to stem the flow of people was shoved aside by three large men. A security guard took photos of the players with his smartphone. Several fans, many with small children, decided to leave.

“A number of visitors to the event were not permitted entry into the stadium,” a spokesperson for the Dubai Football Challenge organising committee said in a written statement. “This followed a decision by the organising committee to close the main entrance shortly after kick-off in accordance with health and safety procedures.”

The evening had begun in a festive atmosphere with thousands of Real Madrid fans wearing Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous No 7 shirt filling the east and west stands. The name of the venue suddenly seemed acutely appropriate.

Photo gallery: Read Madird v AC Milan friendly in Dubai

Isco, Madrid’s Spanish winger, had his name chanted in unison. A large group of yellow-shirted Colombians sang alongside flag-waving Arabs and Persians from Bahrain and Lebanon, as well as Iranians and Kurds.

Andres Molino from Medellin and Ricardo Alvarado from Cali said they had travelled from Abu Dhabi for the chance to see a couple of high-profile compatriots. James Rodriguez, the Colombian midfielder, joined Real Madrid in the summer for €80 million (Dh357m), while defender Cristian Zapata joined AC Milan last year.

“The Colombian community is quite big and there are around 1,000 Colombians here tonight,” said Molino, a driver who has been in the UAE for two years. “We are here to see Zapata and James. Ronaldo is better, but James is a great player. It’s a dream to see him play here.”

Rodriguez started the match as a substitute and entered the field at half-time to great cheers. He was unable to help rescue his side from defeat, though, as Madrid lost 4-2.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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