As social venues go, few in Dubai are bathed in nostalgia as much as the Red Lion — one of the city’s first for expatriate workers.
After it opened in 1978 in the old Metropolitan Hotel, the venue served as a place to meet friends and remind people of home. It also developed a community during the three decades it was open.
Much has changed since then, but an exhibition match that took place between regulars in the Red Lion's football team and a makeshift England side of retired professionals in 1984 brings back fond memories for some.
One of those players was Martyn Lewis, now 76 years old.
He lined up against a team including England 1966 heroes Bobby Moore, captain of England's World Cup winners and widely regarded as one of the world's greatest defenders, and right-back George Cohen.
“Even though it was a good few years after the famous World Cup victory in 1966, the quality of the players we faced was unbelievable,” said Mr Lewis, a former telecoms executive, now retired in the UK.
“I remember losing the ball a couple of times and trying to win it back was an impossible task — they were running rings around us.
“As an attacker up against one of the best centrebacks in the history of the sport, I was a bit starstruck, which probably hindered my performance.”
Mr Lewis was aged 37 when he came on as a half-time substitute. Amazingly, the Red Lion side went on to beat the Three Lions ― a team that also featured former England players Peter Osgood, Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell — 4-2.
The Red Lion was a Dubai institution for 33 years before the hotel was knocked down and replaced with the Dubai St Regis (Downtown).
A pub of the same name has since relocated to the new Metropolitan Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road and is now home to the Dubai branch of the Manchester United supporters club.
World cup volunteer
Mr Lewis will continue his relationship with the World Cup next month when he heads to Qatar as one of the thousands of tournament volunteers.
He has previously volunteered at events including the World Cup in Russia in 2018, the London Olympics in 2012 and the Brazil Olympics in 2016.
More than half a million people have signed up for Fifa’s global volunteer platform.
Numbers have soared from 100,000 to 500,000 since October 2021, with the World Cup proving the most popular assignment.
Mr Lewis has fond memories of his time in Dubai, including the role he played in the opening of the Al Nasr Stadium in Dubai in 1978.
He was a referee for the stadium’s first match between Bob Paisley’s Liverpool and Al Nasr, a Dubai team managed by the former England and Leeds Utd manager Don Revie.
“I got to know both of them well in the evening after the match, and it was an honour to share a pitch with the likes of Emlyn Hughes, Ray Clemence and Alan Hansen,” Mr Lewis said.
“I’ve been a fan of Liverpool ever since.
“Having had the opportunity to live in Brazil and across the Middle East, as well as here in England, I’ve seen first-hand the joy and excitement that football can bring.
“I’ve always played football, originally as an amateur in the local Hartlepool leagues, and I still turn out regularly for a local side.
“Most of my teammates are in their 20s and 30s!”