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Too Soon … to Be Outside

October 19th, 2013 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Football, Pro League, soccer, The National, UAE, World Cup

The tipoff should have been watching the Under 17 World Cup.

Well, actually, I did watch it, for several days. I just didn’t make the obvious mental connection.

Those kids were sweating bullets.

Ergo …

… It’s too soon for an old person to be sitting outside in Abu Dhabi.

We want “summer” to be over, so intensely, here in the UAE, that the first semi-cool (and by “semi” I mean a high below three digits, Fahrenheit) day sends us out to balconies and to terraces and to the beach …

And it’s just too soon.

The soccer kids were the first and biggest clue.

When you are 17, you’re in excellent physical condition when you roll out of bed. Even before you do even a teeny bit of exercise.

And these are soccer players, from Japan and Russia and Honduras, who have been training like mad for years. Their working lives are given over to being able to run for 90-plus minutes.

And before the end of the first half of any of these games, they all were sopping, sweating, exhausted, cramping messes.

What chance did we have, then, old and feeble, sitting out in that?

For starters, this has been a particularly punishing summer. Not just everlasting, but hotter than it was in our previous three summers. One of our sports reporters did a comment piece on how the local professional soccer league should back up the start of its season to October — so at least not to be playing in September.

A curious meteorological fact, here in this end of the Gulf, is that it actually gets warmer after the sun goes down. At least during “summer” — which really cannot be said to end, here, till the end of October. (Having started in May.)

What happens is that the humidity rockets, once the sun sinks, and the wind often dies. And that 97 degrees now feels like something quite a bit more, and you sweat as you sit, even if you happen to have a chilled beverage in your hand.

I noticed this, to my grief, on consecutive days, which shows a real problem with learning from experience.

On the one day, I was sitting on an all-weather couch at a hotel on Saadiyat Island, staring out at the sea, and it was quite nice, once the afternoon sun faded.

Then, as it turned dark, we repaired about 30 yards, to the edge of a cafe — which was blocking what little bit of breeze was left. Leaving us to eat our seared tuna salads between wiping sweat off our brows.

The second night was sillier. The UAE was playing a U17 World Cup match in Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, just down the street from the offices of The National.

I have been in that stadium 20 or 25 times. More. One of those was a spring night so intensely hot and humid that I feared I would pass out. Every few minutes, I ducked inside a door, behind the press box, and into the hallway of the hotel (yes, hotel; don’t ask) just to get my core temp down a few degrees. Eventually, I left that game at halftime; I was not going to last. And this was, like, May.

Jazira’s stadium is a toaster because it is fully enclosed. No air in there. At all. Which was really, really bad planning — even if the place looks like a real stadium, by Western standards.

So, watching the UAE play Brazil from the press box, and the players are dragging, by 30 minutes. And running over for water any time someone is clever enough to fake an injury. Which is often.

I decided that I would spend the second half with some co-workers who were there and watching the game for fun — at a lower level.

Meantime, they moved to another end of the stadium, and that led to 20 minutes of me walking around the stadium, and then sitting in a lower level, without a breath of air, and steadily turning into a ball of sweat who happened to be wearing a nice shirt, khakis and hard shoes — straight from work.

When Brazil scored its fifth goal (final: 6-1), I decided I had had enough. (Perhaps only minutes before nature decided for me.) I struggled out to the street, was fortunate to get a cab within a few minutes and aimed the backseat AC outlet directly at my glistening face.

It may be mid-October, but mid-October is summer in the UAE. I know that. I should not have been fooled by that one day at 95 degrees.


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