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The Biggest Day in Sports … Eclipsed by Soccer, of Course

November 23rd, 2014 · No Comments · Football, soccer, The National, UAE

Noted a week or so ago:

Too much good sports stuff this week. Specifically, today.

Actually, we had even more good stuff than I presented.

Add to the list:

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The UAE’s Star

November 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · Football, London 2012, London Olympics, soccer, The National, UAE

Omar Abdulrahman … the best player nearly no one outside the UAE knows about.

He is really good, if he is allowed to play, and he has become the leader of the UAE national team, which plays host Saudi Arabia in the semifinals of the Gulf Cup of Nations tomorrow.

He dominated the final Group B match this week, against Iraq, which generally is a pretty tough side. Held the ball, did tricks with it, ran the Iraqis in circles. And also did all the talking in the pre-match huddle.

So, I was inspired to write a paean to Omar for The National. Not only is he a great entertainer, he has become the team’s captain without portfolio.

Other Omar facts:

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Etiquette Tips for UAE Visitors

November 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, The National, Travel, UAE

This actually is a handy compilation of information, if you are planning to visit the United Arab Emirates sometime soon.

And you probably are not planning any such thing, if you live in the States. It’s just too far.

But this should be required reading for Europeans and, in particular, for Britons and Russians, who form a big chunk of European visitors to the UAE but also sometimes show up behaving as if people in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are comfortable with the same behavior seen at Cancun or Phuket or Bali.

Which is not the case. The UAE is liberal, when it comes to dress and alcohol, compared to several of its neighbors … but not that liberal.

So, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi has created a website meant for foreigners to check out before they arrive. Which is a good idea any time a traveler is leaving an area where he or she is confident about societal issues.

The No. 1 tip the author has for visitors?

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‘Hijacking Our Identity’

November 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, The National

Sometimes someone says something that makes so much sense, you have to share it.

So it was with Queen Rania of Jordan, who at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit this week said Arab and Muslim extremists are using social media to drown out the peaceful majority.

“A minority … is using social media to rewrite our our narrative, hijack our our identity and rebrand us,” she said. “This is their version of their Arab world story — their narrative, their plot, their heroes. And the rest of the world is listening and watching.”

Among other points she made:

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Witness to the ‘Shot Heard Round the World’ — 25 Years Ago

November 19th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Fifa, Football, Italy, Landon Donovan, Newspapers, soccer, Sports Journalism, World Cup

I had forgotten the date. A former colleague sent me an email about it, and yes, he was right.

It was 25 years ago today that the U.S. national soccer team recorded the most important victory in the history of American soccer.

We can say that without reservation, actually, because soccer was languishing in the U.S. in 1989.

The North American Soccer League of Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia was long dead, seemingly only a fevered dream. No league of any significance existed in the US. And the national team still had not reached a World Cup since 1950.

A good case could be made, in 1989, that the U.S. was going to remain immune to this “global football” thing … forever.

Instead, Paul Caligiuri scored a random/miraculous goal and the U.S. defeated Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain, on November 19, 1989, setting the stage for all the American soccer that has come thereafter.

I was there.

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Watching Kim Kardashian Dine in Dubai

November 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Dubai, The National

Apparently, it is Dubai’s great good fortune to have vacuous celebrities drop by fairly regularly.

Last month, it was Paris Hilton.

In this case, it is Kim Kardashian, who may rank No. 1 in world history in the dubious category of “famous for being famous”. Which, apparently, qualifies her as the “world’s hottest dinner date”.

This media release dropped into our email, at The National, today.

Nobody seems to plan to do anything about it, but it was a topic of conversation.

This is what it looked like, complete with typo in the first sentence of the text.

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The UAE: ‘Little Sparta?’

November 17th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi

We have known from early in our stay, here in the UAE, that the U.S. Air Force has a base not far from Abu Dhabi.

It is the Al Dhafra base, on the mainland. Maybe a half-hour drive from Abu Dhabi Island. The name is easy to remember because a soccer team in the Arabian Gulf League has the same name.

We have known USAF personnel — apparently part of the 380th Expeditionary Wing — who have been stationed there. And we also have seen groups of guys of military age and with military haircuts (and heard American accents) in the city, on excursions. Often, at the Mexican food restaurant in one of the malls.

But now we have a Washington Port story about how important the UAE is to the U.S. military in the region, and not just as a host.

But as a combatant, too.

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Too Much Good Stuff!

November 16th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Arabian Gulf League, Dubai, English Premier League, Football, Motor racing, soccer, Sports Journalism, The National, UAE, Volvo Ocean Race

It often turns out this way, in the news biz. Weeks of making something out of nothing. And then a stretch of time where you have big events colliding on the calendar.

This is one of those “colliding big events” weeks, here in the UAE.

Four events that pretty safely fall into our top 10 for the year are going on right this minute, or abiout to go on. Which is fun and exciting for the sports staff of The National … but couldn’t we have spread these out a little better?

Here is what we have:

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Good Times, and the Terrace at Lebanese Flower

November 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi

I am not an economist. Nor do I play one on TV. But I have a sense that we are in a bit of a boom time, here in the UAE. Certainly, in Abu Dhabi.

We arrived in 2009, which was pretty much the bottom of the global economic crisis. And things were going on even then, here in Abu Dhabi. (Including a $20 billion bailout of Dubai, where the economy came off the rails, for a time.)

Things have never been rough, in the capital. But also, I do not recall a moment when things seemed so … busy.

A thought which struck me while sitting on the expanded terrace of Lebanese Flower, a landmark Abu Dhabi restaurant. Which has recently expanded into four more locations.

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The Big Event: Gulf Cup of Nations

November 14th, 2014 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, soccer, UAE, World Cup

The more I think about this …

The most important soccer competition in the region is not really the World Cup. It is not the European Championship (which is followed closely in much of the world). Nor even the Asian Cup, the continental championship.

The most important soccer competition in these parts … is the Gulf Cup.

Or as it known, of late, in what must be assumed to be a more dignified/imposing name: The Gulf Cup of Nations.

Never heard of it? You are not alone. It isn’t a Fifa-sanctioned event.

But when it comes to importance where we live … this is the Big One.

Why?

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