England fans in Dubai ready for first World Cup final in almost 60 years

Lionesses attract new legion of football fans in the emirate

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Excitement is building ahead of England's first Women's World Cup final on Sunday as hotels and venues across Dubai prepare to cash in on fans' demand for somewhere to watch the game.

England’s Lionesses will take on Spain at Stadium Australia in Sydney at 2pm UAE time in what promises to be a tightly matched final.

Interest in the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand may not have matched that of the men’s tournament in Qatar in November, but a groundswell of support across the Emirates has continued to build.

I watched the Nigeria game with some friends in the UK and I was hooked
Jennifer Dinari, England fan

Jennifer Dinari, a mother-of-two from Devon, is one of a growing band of new football followers who started watching the game thanks to the success of the England women’s team.

“I watched the Nigeria game with some friends in the UK and I was hooked,” she said.

“The whole country was behind the Lionesses and there was a lot more interest the more they won, especially on social media.

“We watched the last match in the Mall of the Emirates and the atmosphere was a lot quieter there. Hopefully, there will be a few more out to watch the final.

“There are lots of options and we are looking for somewhere child-friendly, as we are watching with some other families.

“The men are into watching as much as the women and it's a different atmosphere to a men's match.

“Spain will be tough but hopefully we can win.”

The match is England's first World Cup final since the men's famous triumph back in 1966, and fan Matthew Faddy, 54, will be watching alongside his sons Theo, 17, and Jengo, 13, in Dubai.

They travelled to Qatar in November to watch his sons' first live international match.

This year, they have enjoyed watching the Lionesses progress through the tournament.

“I think they're amazing. I think they've got so much more passion than the men's team, and I actually find it a lot more enjoyable to watch. I think they're just magic to watch,” Mr Faddy, who is a composer, told The National.

He is quietly confident, but said it will be another tight match for England against a team that overcame a strong Swedish side in the semi-final.

“Seeing Sweden play [against Australia], they were really good, so I think it's not going to be easy,” he said.

England and Spain last met in the European Championship quarterfinals when England advanced after extra time.

“I think people have been quite complacent about it and saying England will win but I don't think it's going to be an easy match by any means.”

Dubai resident Sarah Pickford, who has travelled to Europe to watch England and her club Manchester United play, and was in Doha for the men's World Cup last year, will watch the final in Dubai.

"If I could be there to watch the Lionesses I would be," she told The National.

"The Lionesses I am sure will do this. I’m excited for them. Football’s coming home."

Ms Pickford, a personal travel consultant with Travel Counsellors, said her mum, who lives in Spain, is currently in Dubai on holiday but can't decide who to support.

"Spain are favourites but our girls have been fabulous so far," she said.

"They have the spirit, the determination and the character to win."

Busy venues

In contrast to the Qatar tournament, a World Cup fan zone has not been staged by McGettigan’s Group in Dubai this summer, but the pub and restaurant chain's venues have seen a steady rise in footfall as the women's competition progressed.

“The Fifa Women’s World Cup has put women’s football on a global stage, and we’ve seen increasing numbers through our doors throughout the tournament,” said Dennis McGettigan, McGettigan’s Group chief executive.

“Women, men and families have really been getting behind their national teams, with a surge in numbers for the knockout stages.

“We’re expecting a full house and a fantastic atmosphere for the final this Sunday.”

Morocco were the first Arab team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, and it is no surprise that local interest in the tournament receded once they were knocked out, after beating Colombia and reaching the final 16.

Moroccan defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first Muslim woman wearing a hijab to play in the tournament.

More established nations in the women’s game, Australia, Sweden, England and Spain, made the final four and a high turnout is expected at hotels for Sunday’s big match.

Venues in Dubai have been taking advance bookings, with big screens showing the match at all Mr Toad's outlets at Premier Inn.

“We are expecting a full house at Mr Toad’s for the women’s final on Sunday, with around 600 guests across our six venues at Premier Inn hotels in Dubai,” said Rian Potgieter, operations manager for Emirates Leisure Retail’s Mr Toad's outlets.

“Many people who have joined us to watch the Women’s World Cup since it began have already reserved their spot for Sunday afternoon.

“The Women’s World Cup has been a great draw for hotel guests and local residents.”

Updated: August 20, 2023, 3:46 AM