UAE is well-known around the world for its appreciation of a variety of sporting events and tournaments. In fact, the country also regularly plays host to many exciting international championships. Some of the popular sports events hosted by the UAE include the Omega Desert Dubai Classic, Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Dubai Tennis Championships and Rugby Sevens. While these tournaments are immensely successful, UAE residents remain zealous fans of football.
Football tournaments in the UAE are followed extensively by locals and expats. The United Arab Emirates Football Association (also known as the UAE Football Association) oversees and promotes local football competitions. The native league tournament is supplemented with smaller cup competitions offering local and international teams another shot at glory. Besides these leagues and big tournaments, short competitions and age-based tournaments are also held in the UAE. Moreover, casual fans also book football pitches in Dubai to test themselves.
THE LEAGUE STRUCTURE
The UAE has a three-tiered football league structure in place with regular promotion and relegation cycles. The top 14 clubs compete for the UAE Pro League (also known as the Arabian Gulf League). This league attracts regional and global talent; World Cup-winning defender Fabio Cannavaro was also a part of the Arabian Gulf League. The Italian signed the contract with Al Ain, the most successful club in the UAE with 13 league titles. The mix of foreign players and thriving young local talent is what makes the league special.
The UAE Arabian Gulf League is the top professional football league in the country. The much-awaited Arabian Gulf League (AGL) 2020-21 season is scheduled to kick off on October 16 with Sharjah FC as the current champion. UAE First Division League is the second-tier competition with 11 teams. In 2019, UAE’s Second Division League kick-started as the third tier with 10 teams.
FOOTBALL TOURNAMENTS IN THE UAE
Besides the high-profile AGL, fans can also witness other exciting football tournaments in the UAE. Some competitions are restricted to local clubs, while others include foreign clubs. If you are a football fan, check out MyBayut’s list of the top football tournaments in the UAE.
UAE PRESIDENT’S CUP
Founded in 1974, The UAE President’s Cup is another significant football tournament in the UAE as the winner qualifies for the prestigious AFC Champions League. Teams from the top league as well as the first division can participate in the cup. All teams strive to excel in this highly competitive club competition in Asia and test themselves against the best in the continent. Currently, the trophy title is held by Sharjah FC while historically, the most successful team is Al Ahli.
UAE LEAGUE CUP
The UAE League Cup or the Arabian Gulf Cup is the second entry on our list of the top football tournaments in the UAE. As part of this UAE football event, 14 teams compete for the title. Al Nasr is the defending champion while Al Ahli historically has been the best side with three tournament wins. The first edition of the tournament was played during the 2008-2009 season. While the UAE Pro League provides a more long haul, grinding competition, this cup is all about excitement and thrill.
UAE SUPER CUP
The UAE Super Cup is the curtain-raiser of the UAE football season. With the previous season’s Pro-League winners taking on the President’s Cup winners, it is UAE’s equivalent to the English Community Shield. Al Ain is the most successful club having won the UAE Super Cup five times. The annual football match is one of the most awaited competitions in the country.
THE DUBAI INTERNATIONAL CUP
The Dubai International Cup is a friendly association-based football tournament in the UAE. Twelve teams from the Asian Football Confederation, Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football and Union of European Football Associations compete for the title.
MANCHESTER CITY ABU DHABI CUP
Abu Dhabi United Group’s purchase of the Manchester City Football Club has changed the landscape of English football. Rated as the largest youth football tournament in the region, Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup attracts teams from Australia, Thailand, the UK and other countries.
The competition has five categories for Boys’ teams (U8 to U16) and 3 categories for Girls’ (U12, U14 and U16). The winning team from all age groups enter a draw to win a fully paid trip to the City Football Academy, Manchester. Teams can register via the official tournament website.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL SUPER CUP
Dubai International Super Cup was voted as the top football event in Dubai at the Dubai Sports Council Ranking Awards Ceremony. Football legends like Diego Maradona, former Sweden, England and Manchester City Manager Sven Goran Eriksson and four-time MLS winner Dwayne De Rosario have graced the tournament with their presence in the past.
Different age-based competitions are held with the winner bagging the glorious trophy. The competition level is extremely high given that age group teams from around the globe take part in the tournament. The next edition of the tournament will be held in April 2021.
ISG WINTER CUP DUBAI
2020’s ISG Winter Cup Dubai will take place on 27th and 28th November at the Dubai Sports City Football Academy. It is an invitation based youth football tournament where academies, clubs and schools from across the world compete for the top honour. Players will experience competing on natural and 3G pitches.
MUBADALA COMMUNITY LEAGUE
A joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Mubadala Investment Company, this league focuses on fostering community engagement and offering a platform for the youth. A total of 40 teams participate in the league, including girl’s teams. More than 2,300 footballers have showcased their talents since the start of the football tournament in the UAE.
This wraps up our list of football tournaments in the UAE. Fans also passionately support the national football team. Young talent can also join different football academies in Dubai to learn more about the game and improve their skills. Promising players can even progress to the different football clubs in Dubai and compete in the best football stadiums in Dubai.
Since UAE is home to thousands of expats from the sub-continent, it is an attractive location for cricket matches. Cricket stadiums in the country have hosted international matches in all three formats as well as high-profile leagues and tournaments including the Indian Premier League, the ICC T20 Qualifiers and Pakistan Super League.
Follow MyBayut to learn about all the top sports events being held in the country.