Traffic woes and overcrowding dampen mood at AC Milan and Real Madrid match in Dubai

Many fans had to make their way to the stadium on foot after being forced to park far away.
Crowds flocked towards The Sevens Stadium for the match between AC Milan and Real Madrid. The Italian team won 4-2. Reem Mohammed / The National
Crowds flocked towards The Sevens Stadium for the match between AC Milan and Real Madrid. The Italian team won 4-2. Reem Mohammed / The National

DUBAI // Last night’s clash between football giants Real Madrid and AC Milan will be remembered for more than the Spanish club’s first defeat in 22 games.

As the whistle blew and the game began, thousands of fans were still many miles away, making their way towards the Dubai Sevens stadium.

And meanwhile, just outside the stadium, thousands of fans were forced to stand behind a fence that had been placed near the entrance midway through the first half.

Horse-mounted police watched on as irate supporters pushed against the fence, some shouting to be let in, others demanding a refund.

“It is not our decision [to place the fence],” said a security guard. “The police made the call. We are just doing what we were told.”

Motorists, fed up of the congestion, resorted to parking their cars along the Dubai-Al Ain Road, a distance away from the stadium, in order to complete the journey on foot.

Many fans blamed the organisers for the chaos.

An angry Mahmoud, from Jordan, said: “I have been to many games around the world. I have been to the Bernabeu [Real Madrid’s stadium] and this is, by far, the worst experience of my life.

“I think the organisers got greedy. The stadium’s capacity is 40,000, yet there are about 2,000 stuck outside and what looks like another 6,000 too many inside.

“It is poor. There is absolutely nothing good about it. Nothing. Zero.”

People were forced to stand in blocked exits, and an area held aside for press was overrun with fans.

Real Madrid fans Nasser Ismail and his 10-year-old son, Bader, were among those who walked for about half an hour to reach the stadium after parking their car on the Dubai-Al Ain Road.

The drive from their home in Sharjah normally takes 40 minutes. Last night it took almost two hours, said the Syrian expatriate.

The Roads and Transport Authority had publicised that 80 shuttle buses had been laid on to depart from four metro stations to ease congestion.

Mr Ismail, however, said he was unaware of this.

“We just had to get out of the car,” said Mr Ismail. “We were really worried about being late. I didn’t even know there were shuttle buses.”

People planning to watch the match with younger family members in tow would have found last night’s situation equally difficult, he said.

“It’s hard travelling with children when you have to deal with this kind of challenge. If Bader was younger, we really would have found this difficult. There should be more entrances to access the stadium.”

Sarah Jarmakani, 19, and her brother Hisham, 15, found themselves stuck in traffic minutes before kick-off, having driven from Sharjah.

“This journey would normally take us 35 minutes,” said Ms Jarmakani, a Real Madrid fan. “I only knew at the last minute about the shuttle buses when I went online to double-check the kick-off time. I have only ever found public transport to be very unreliable so I didn’t want to take that chance.”

Although shuttle buses were a good idea, said her brother, people should have received more notification.

“We know people who have come from around the region to see this and they are much more likely to come to Dubai to see these games but we were so stressed getting here that it ruins the experience. They [the authorities] need to communicate with people better.”

The sell-out match, which was won 4-2 by the Italian team, was part of the Dubai Football Challenge.

Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM


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