As readers of this blog may have noticed, I have a thing for collecting scarves. It's basically my main concession to Sporting Culture as I don't play fantasy sports, collect (or wear) jerseys or indulge in other pursuits common to sports fans. Even in this, I try to keep my habit within reason and restrict myself to collecting scarves of teams (clubs or countries) I've seen play in person.
Time to add another one to the pile:
I picked this up for 10 dirhams (about $2.75) outside Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium a few days ago before attending the Asian Cup qualifier between the UAE and Vietnam. That was the third match I'd attended -- the others were at Al Nahyan Stadium, a UAE-Philippines friendly and an Arabian Gulf League match between Al Wahda and Al Jazira -- but those 10 dirhams were the first money I'd spent on UAE soccer. Apparently giving away seats for free is a common practice in this part of the world, and there is a certain logic to it, even if it doesn't do much for the perceived value of those seats. After all, it's not as though clubs here need gate receipts to survive.
The security at each game was interesting, too. At Wahda-Jazira, the security officers peeked into my bag and gave my camera a thorough going-over. I wasn't sure if they thought it might be a bomb or if they were just fascinated that someone actually still uses a dedicated camera these days instead of taking pictures with their smartphone or tablet. I received no screening at the Philippines match -- I just followed a bunch of Azkals fans into the end set aside for the visiting fans and, while a few Filipino males got patted down, I was just waved through. More white privilege rearing its ugly head, I guess. For the Vietnam match, the security guy took a cursory look into my bag and asked me, "No cigarettes?" Answering in the negative, I was waved into the stadium.
My two-months anniversary in the UAE is Wednesday and as such it's far too early to make any educated judgements about the soccer here. That said, I feel fairly safe in making this assessment -- the game here is the polar opposite to what I experienced in Indonesia in just about every facet.