‘Nobody had answers for us’ at AC Milan vs Real Madrid match beset by problems, say fans

Football fans say they hope organisers have learnt their lesson after long traffic jams and overcrowding marred the AC Milan vs Real Madrid match.
Stephan El Shaarawy and Nigel De Jong, of AC Milan, close in on Real Madrid's Jese Rodriguez during the Dubai Football Challenge at The Sevens Stadium. Satish Kumar / The National
Stephan El Shaarawy and Nigel De Jong, of AC Milan, close in on Real Madrid's Jese Rodriguez during the Dubai Football Challenge at The Sevens Stadium. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Unhappy football fans are hoping that organisers of Tuesday night’s high-profile match will learn from mistakes after the event was beset by problems.

There were chaotic scenes inside and outside The Sevens Stadium. Many of the tens of thousands of fans struggled to get in or out of the ground while others were stuck in traffic jams on the way to watch Real Madrid take on AC Milan.

Unable to reach the ground, many motorists left their cars at the side of the Dubai-Al Ain motorway and walked, while those already there said crowd control and information was inadequate.

“I’m used to going to events of 100,000 people in South Africa and being able to get out in 20 minutes, but it took us two and a half hours to leave the ground,” said Hannes-Ras Loubser. “People were cutting in and out of lanes and I didn’t see any police.”

Mr Loubser said the sheer number of people at the stadium meant the situation could have easily turned dangerous, particularly at the packed South Stand where he was.

“People with tickets to that stand were just standing in the stairways, in any spaces and gaps,” he said. “There was no allocated seating so if you were disabled, had a medical emergency or there was something like you’ve seen in England, hooliganism or a stampede, you’d be in trouble.

“As usual in Dubai there were no ramps and those with disabilities just got overlooked.

“I felt like the security guards just weren’t informed enough to manage it either.”

About 45,000 tickets were sold for the friendly game at the stadium that hosts the annual sevens rugby tournament. Despite the size of the ground, many people thought it was unsuitable to hold such a popular event.

“That place needs a major redesign. The highway was a big car park, all events there cause similar chaos,” said Lebanese engineer A J Shream, who visited the stadium for the Justin Bieber concert two years ago.

Mr Shream, who attended the game with his three children, questioned whether the stadium was suitable for events that attract so many people.

“The seating in Premium South was scary. My kids were scared. It was a scaffolding, a huge one, with metal poles showing. It seemed temporary, to boost capacity. It was badly done, especially for premium seating, a low-cost thing.”

Abdullah Soyan was one of hundreds of fans who had flown to the UAE to see the match. He travelled with his family – including two children aged four and 11 – having bought six VIP tickets for Dh650 two months ago.

“We were left standing until 9pm, when we just left,” he said. “It was a mess. Even my wife was crying. It was so disappointing for our children, who are big Cristiano Ronaldo fans.

“Nobody had answers for us, nobody knew anything and there were no managers to even speak to us. It was a terrible experience.

“This was supposed to be a holiday and we missed many important things to be at this game. ”

A spokesman for the organising committee said: “A number of visitors to the event were not permitted entry into the stadium. This followed a decision ... to close the main entrance shortly after kick-off in accordance with health and safety procedures.” Organisers also said there were free shuttle-bus services from four venues in Dubai to ease traffic congestion and that the stadium was within its capacity and that no injuries were reported.

mswan@thenational.ae

Published: December 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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