Dubai: Christian Karambeu, Fernando Morientes, Aldair and Damiano Tommasi are just some of the big names coming to the UAE for the second Dubai Indoor Football Championships at Dubai World Trade Centre in July.
The annual five-a-side tournament sees Ajax and AS Roma join Barcelona and last year’s champions Real Madrid. Arab teams Morocco, Egypt, UAE and Zamalek will also feature in the expanded format — up to eight teams from six last year.
Real Madrid, Ajax, Egypt and the UAE were drawn in Group A on Wednesday, leaving Barcelona, AS Roma, Zamalek and Morocco to battle it out in Group B.
After each four-way round-robin from July 9-11, the top two teams from each group progress to the semi-finals on July 12, culminating in a grand final to be played on the same day. Friendly matches between Real, Barca, Ajax and Roma will take place on July 8.
French and Brazilian World Cup-winners Karambeu and Aldair, along with Spain’s three-time Champions League victor Morientes and one-time Serie A winner Tomassi of Italy, have raised the profile of the event with the help of Holland’s Kiki Musampa and Michael Mols and Spain’s Gabri and Gerard.
Played on an 800 square metre astro-turf pitch inside Dubai World Trade Centre’s Shaikh Rashid Hall, with seating for more than 2,500 spectators, officials have lauded the competition’s new and improved format.
“We expect attendances to be higher this year due to the fact the names and teams participating are much bigger,” Dubai Sports Council’s director of marketing and promotions Rashid Al Kamali said at the draw on Wednesday.
“The variety between communities has also spread. The interest of Spanish and Italian football is complemented by the Moroccan and Egyptian additions, whose fans make up a large population of the UAE.
“We believe this tournament will grow bigger and better every year, positioning itself in the local sports calendar, providing maximum entertainment and a greater atmosphere year-on-year.”
Ahmad Al Khadja, vice-president of venues management at Dubai World Trade Centre, said: “Through Dubai Sports World and the Dubai Indoor Football Championship, we want to nurture the sporting community and provide both residents and visitors the opportunity to experience world-class football.
“The event has firmly placed Dubai on the map as a premiere sports destination and we will focus on providing the infrastructure that facilitates even bigger events in the future.”
The event will run from July 8-12, from 7pm to 11pm, with doors opening at 6pm. For more information call 04 306 4000. Tickets are available at the venue or through www.dubaifootballchamps.com.