Sport in the United Arab Emirates is widely practiced by the people of the UAE. Football is the most popular sport in the UAE. Among the notable UAE sports achievements is the 2002–03 AFC Champions League won by Al Ain FC who also finished second in the 2005 AFC Champions League. The UAE qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first and only time so far in 1990, the fourth Middle-Eastern country to have qualified for the World Cup after first Egypt ( qualified for Italy in 1934 ), then, Kuwait (qualified for Spain in 1982), and Iraq (qualified for Mexico again in 1986).
Football is the most popular sport in the UAE. The United Arab Emirates Football Association was first established in 1971 and since then has dedicated its time and effort to promoting the game, organizing youth programs and improving the abilities of not only its players, but of the officials and coaches involved with its regional teams. The UAE national football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1990 with Egypt. It was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982 and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986.
The UAE national team won the 2005 Kirin Cup, sharing the cup with Peru after a 1–0 victory over the host country Japan.
The UAE team played a four-team friendly in Switzerland in July 2005, in which they beat both Qatar and Kuwait but lost 5–4 on penalties in the final against Egypt.
In 2003, the UAE was the host nation of the FIFA U-20 World Cup between November and December 2003.
In April, Dubai Holding agreed to provide the national team with Dh20 million (US$5.45 million) sponsorship money over the next four years. The fund will also go towards developing the sport.
The UAE also recently won the Arabian Gulf Cup held in Riffa in January 2013.
The UAE are currently ranked 110th in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings.
Abu Dhabi United Group have recently purchased Manchester City Football Club. A Dubai consortium known as DIC (Dubai International Capital) is also interested in buying the English Premier League club, Liverpool F.C.
The UAE U-16 national football team qualified for the 2009 Youth World Cup which was held in Nigeria. The UAE U-19 national football team was also qualified for the World Youth Cup finals to be held in Egypt the year after.
The UAE national cricket team has qualified for several major tournaments in the past, including 2 world cups, in 1996 and most recently in 2015 (the most the country has featured in a world cup through any sport). The nation has itself hosted a major tournament, the 2014 Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
Although the large percentage of the UAE team has included expatriates from other cricketing nations, the country has produced many prominent homegrown talents as well, with examples including the likes of Sultan Zarawani, and Mohammad Tauqir. With further initiatives being taken to increase the number of homegrown talents by the Emirates Cricket Board, it is likely that very soon cricket will surpass football in popularity.
Interest in cycling in the UAE, specifically Dubai, has been on the increase. Today, there are many safe places to cycle in Dubai, including Nad Al Sheba Cycle Path, Al Qudra Cycle Path and Jumeirah Open Beach Track. A new 30 km cycling lane in Dubai’s desert with worldclass facilities will help secure the future growth of the sport among the ever-increasing cycling community in the emirate.
The 2013 DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates delivered a US$44 million gross economic benefit to Dubai, according to independent research commissioned by tournament organisers, The European Tour. The game is experiencing a surge in popularity in the UAE with families coming to watch the games in big numbers.
Dubai’s Creek Golf & Yacht Club is home to the Middle East’s first golf academy.
BWF’s grassroots programme, Shuttle Time Dubai, aims to broaden badminton’s appeal and raise its profile in the emirate by working with 40 schools on how to teach and engage youth in the sport. The ‘BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals’ leg, which will take place annually for the next four years, will be the first time the international tournament has been hosted in the Middle East and enables the sport to connect with a whole new region of fans, explains BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer in his interview to Vision.
The country hosted the 2014 Under-17 Basketball World Championship and is the first Asian country to ever do so. In terms of qualifications to major international events such as the Asian Championship, the UAE is a major force on the Arabian Peninsula.
Inhabitants of Arab States of the Persian Gulf have enjoyed camel racing for many years as it is considered a traditional sport. Formalizing camel racing was one way of maintaining its central role in UAE life. In the past, UAE had a reputation for exploiting South Asians as jockeys. However, robot jockeys are now used after strict government regulations were passed prohibiting underage jockeys from racing. The UAE now has no fewer than 15 race tracks across the seven emirates. Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, 10 kilometers outside of Dubai, Al Wathba, 30 kilometers south-east of Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain track, which is 20 kilometers west of Al Ain, are all large, well-equipped camel tracks with high-tech facilities. Two smaller tracks are located in Sharjah, one in Ra’s al-Khaimah and one in Umm al-Qaiwain. Others are spread throughout the desert areas.
Ice hockey is a minor sport in the UAE but growing in popularity.
The first motorsport race in the United Arab Emirates was the 1981 Dubai Grand Prix held at a purpose-built circuit in Deira Corniche, during the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Emirates. It featured a sports car, touring car and celebrity races, as well as Formula One demonstrations, with drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Denny Hulme, Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, Stirling Moss, John Jackson and Carroll Shelby.
Dubai hosts the Dubai International Rally, a point-scoring round of the Middle East Rally Championship, since 1984. Dubai driver Mohammed bin Sulayem is the most successful driver of the tournament, having won 14 championships and 60 races, and won the Dubai rally 15 times.
Khalid Al Tassim, also born in the U.S.A, won the 2004 Middle East Rally Championship and scored seventy wins in the series. From 2007 to 2011 he raced the World Rally Championship, in the Ford World Rally Team and later the Team Abu Dhabi. His best results were 5th at the 2011 Rally Australia and 6th at the 2009 Acropolis Rally, as well as a 12th championship finish in 2009 and 2010.
The UAE Desert Challenge, since 2009 called Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, is a rally raid race held since 1991. It is valid for the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
The Sharjah Autodrome, opened in 2007, hosted international races in it first years of activity. Its main race is the Dubai 24 Hour endurance race, held since 2009
Abu Dhabi has hosted Formula One races there from the 2009 season onward. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held at the 5.6 km Yas Marina Circuit, located on Yas Island and includes street and marina sections similar to Circuit de Monaco.
The UAE hosts Dubai Sevens round of the IRB Sevens World Series. Previously this was held at Dubai Rugby Ground, but from 2008 onwards it has been held at the new stadium The Sevens on the Dubai-Al Ain road.
On November 20, 2001 and again in 2002, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna imposed comprehensive wildlife trade sanctions (i.e. recommendations against trade) on the United Arab Emirates. Sanctions were instigated by industrial-scale falcon smuggling, financed and directed by the ruling sheikhs. Smuggling continues into 2009, to such an extent that saker falcons, altai gyrafalcons, and gyrfalcons have become regionally extinct across much of Central Asia. Golden eagles and houbara bustards (lesser McQueen’s bustards) are also critically endangered in Central Asian regions where falconry is practiced.
Endurance riding or racing is a traditional sport in the UAE. It involves long distance races on horse back. UAE patriot Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is a premiere endurance rider. The UAE claim to be the global leaders of the sport and are campaigning for it to be in the Olympic Games. At the top level, horses cover 160 km in a day. The UAE hold the record for the fastest 160 km race at the Presidents Cup. Recently a UAE rider won the young rider world championships. This sport is growing and the technology and science involved is always developing. The Dubai Endurance City is leading the sport in the country with many world class endurance yards competing regularly.
The UAE weightlifting has seen female competition with likes of [Amna Al Haddad] who has won varies accolades, clad in headscarf in various competitions.
Other known sports include American football, which is not played in the UAE, but broadcast on TV and radio. The most common program in American football is the Super Bowl, an event that is broadcast nearly worldwide. Most hangouts and bars with HDTVs show footage of the Super Bowl throughout the country. The game usually premieres at 3:00 A.M. GST on a Monday, having an 8-hour forward difference from the Eastern Time Zone.