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Ahead of  FIFA World Cup, street cricket is more popular in the Gulf than football

Ahead of FIFA World Cup, street cricket is more popular in the Gulf than football

Ahead of  FIFA World Cup, street cricket is more popular in the Gulf than football

Ahead of FIFA World Cup, street cricket is more popular in the Gulf than football

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  • As the sun rises above the city’s skyscrapers, it reveals an active sight below: 200 people, mostly males, playing street cricket in a weekly festival
  • They use bats and tennis balls that have been taped up
  • People in Gulf are more attached to cricket than football
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A dozen or so unofficial games are going on in a parking lot close to the city’s financial centre as metro trains pass overhead and cops keep watch from a parked SUV, on the lookout for players who could be drinking or acting inappropriately.

Such games are played every weekend on vacant areas of land throughout the Gulf, which is home to millions of migrant workers and expats from South Asian countries who love cricket. The T20 World Cup in cricket, which was played in Australia, dominated discourse among the players in Dubai even as the Gulf, specifically Qatar, prepared to host the first football World Cup on Arab territory.

An keen follower of the competition, 35-year-old Pakistani driver Faisal almost crashed during India’s nail-biting victory over Pakistan in October. He said that he “nearly had an accident” while watching the India-Pakistan game on his phone. We are huge cricket fans.

The most popular sport among the Gulf’s migrant workers, whose treatment has been in the news in the run-up to the Qatar World Cup, is without a doubt. Street cricket is significantly more prevalent than football in Dubai. That is a consequence of the enormous South Asian population in the area, which includes an estimated 3.5 million Indians in the United Arab Emirates.

They outnumber the native population, which numbers approximately a million, by nearly a third.

Dinesh Balani, a 49-year-old Indian expat, said, “We continuously monitor scores while playing cricket.” We watch cricket anyplace, whether we’re working, using the restroom, or anything else.

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As the November morning heats up, more players start to show up, spilling out of cars with bags of bats and plastic wickets in hand and paper cups of karak (strong) tea, a specialty of the Gulf.

In one area of the parking lot, a game for kids is being played, and in another, a coaching session is being conducted with a team made up entirely of women.

Tennis balls that have been taped together to make them less springy and more closely resemble the leather cricket balls used for bowling and batting hurtle across the pavement, bouncing off curbs and rolling beneath parked automobiles.

Real estate professional Balani claimed that since 1995, he has played street cricket in Dubai. He is the manager of the 30 man rostered D-Boys.

According to him, cricket is a valuable outlet for many individuals, many of whom have monotonous or stressful occupations. Balani claimed that many of them were in the middle of the two types of workers.

“They thus have a busy week ahead of them. They pay close attention to what managers and supervisors say “he added

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“But here is the only place we can express our frustration. No one is trying to rule us. We manage our own lives.”

Virat Kohli of India is the player Amreen Vadsaria, 22, a player for the women’s squad who was raised in New Zealand, considers to be her favourite. She is unable to mention any footballers.

“I was not born and raised in India, therefore I never really took an interest in cricket. But I think (playing street cricket) has increased my desire to follow cricket, “added she.

I believe it has reconnected me with my culture because it is such a huge deal in my own India. Because of Dubai’s rapid development, their temporary cricket fields have a history of travelling from location to location with the players and their games.

In the meantime, the UAE has established itself as a standard in professional cricket, having hosted Pakistan’s home matches for ten years following a 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the glamorous IPL T20 tournament in India was relocated to the UAE for two years. The oil-rich nation also hosted the T20 World Cup and many Asian Cups in 2017.

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Weekly cricket serves as a community glue, according to Balani, and the South Asian population of the UAE assures a ready-made fan base for major tournaments.

“We have been doing this since we were five years old. Playing began, and we haven’t stopped since “he stated.

It is an integral part of our lives, according to Balani, who said, “We met through cricket, and then through our families, our kids, and so on and so forth, we became friends.”

In other words, for us, this is like a family gathering in addition to cricket, he explained.

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