UAE rugby fans ready for World Cup to kick off

Fans might be divided by nationality but they're united by love of the game

David and Debs Greenwood prepare to go to the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Reem Mohammed / The National
David and Debs Greenwood prepare to go to the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Reem Mohammed / The National

Rugby fans in the UAE are counting down the hours to the kick-off of the World Cup in Japan.

Supporters were gripped by rugby fever as they spoke to The National about their country’s chances of success at the tournament that begins on Friday.

In some cases, families were split down the middle when it came to loyalties for the tournament.

One such couple was Dubai resident David Greenwood and his wife Deborah, who will both be travelling to Japan for the action.

While David, 43, will be cheering on his beloved England, his wife Deborah, also 43, will be hoping that defending champions New Zealand win the trophy for the third tournament in a row.

“We are flying out on Friday morning together for the South Africa and New Zealand game on Saturday which is my birthday,” he said.

“I am very optimistic about my own team’s chances as we have a good squad but then my wife is very confident about her side too — as you would expect given she is a kiwi.”

The competition gets under way on Friday when hosts Japan take on Russia in Tokyo.

There are 20 teams competing in the tournament, which is held every four years.

While Ireland are ranked as the number one side in the world, the favourites for the Webb Ellis trophy are New Zealand, followed closely by South Africa and England.

The Greenwoods will be taking in a total of four matches in Japan but their love for rugby comes as no surprise to anyone who knows them.

“This will be the third Rugby World Cup we’ve went to,” said Mr Greenwood, who works for a recruitment firm in Dubai.

“We went to the world cup in 2011, in New Zealand, for our honeymoon and then again in 2015, when it was in England in Wales.

“We’ve already discussed attending the next one in 2023 when France will be hosts.”

Stuck in the middle of the rugby mad couple is six-year-old daughter Molly — so where do her allegiances lie?

“If you ask her she is from both New Zealand and England but she prefers the team in the black jersey because it gets her favour with mummy,” he said.

The hype around the World Cup is gathering pace with other fans in the UAE, who cannot wait until the action gets under way.

Recruitment manager Ian Jenkins, 31, believed that being in the UAE would actually be an advantage over watching the games in his home nation of England.

“Being in Dubai, the kick off times are nearly perfect,” he said.

“The great thing about rugby is the friendly rivalry between teams especially the home nations.

“Discussing the games with colleagues, friends and family is a big part of the enjoyment.”

Welsh rugby fan Ben Cockram, 35, who works for a legal recruitment firm, has mixed emotions about watching the World Cup in Dubai.

“I’ll miss the atmosphere of being at home watching the games in a pub or with friends,” he said.

“But is my third World Cup in Dubai and you can guarantee that if there is a Wales game on, you’ll always find a group of noisy, emotional Welshman watching it somewhere.”

Mr Cockram said e was looking forward to watching the games with his family.

“It will be great to watch a couple of the games with my kids,” he said.

“It’s their first rugby World Cup so they won’t have a clue what’s going on when I am screaming at the TV and crying during the anthem.”

Dubliner Stephen Levins, 36, who lives and works in Dubai as a business consultant, has been a fan of the rugby world cup since he watched the 1995 tournament, held in South Africa, with his father.

“The Irish are known for supporting their teams whenever they are competing and, if anything, living abroad brings you closer to them and raises the emotions and passion,” he said.

As for his team’s chances?

“We are officially the number one in the world right now but I think South Africa will be the team to beat,” he said.

Liam Grant, 28, who is vice president of a Dubai-based recruitment firm, said he plans to watch the games over barbecue with friends.

“It will be good to watch the games here in the UAE because I feel people become more patriotic being away from their home country,” he said.

“Being from Scotland, any excuse to be more patriotic is welcome.”

Updated: September 20, 2019 02:31 AM


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