Friday 19th January
When I checked in, they asked twice for my final destination. I realised then that the majority of travellers were using this flight to get to other destinations, eventually they believed that I was just going to Abu Dhabi. The flight was at best a third full. Alcohol was served! Read the local newspaper on the way over and noted that Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareen Nabil was on trial for insulting Islam. Bearing in mind that when In Egypt last year the cartoon incident arose whilst I was likening Islam to football, I took it as a note to watch out!
Arriving at the airport in Abu Dhabi I looked for the bus to the centre. When I made enquiries I was asked which tour company I was with, as the different busses would take you directly to your designated hotel. When I explained that I wasn’t on a tour I simply got a shrug of the shoulders. The guide book told me bus no 901. So off I went in search of a bus or even a departure point. No sign.
A taxi was the only option. Haggled the price down from 90 dirhams to 50, which the driver seemed more than happy with. The driver was from Pakistan and knew nothing about the football.
Checking in at my pre booked hotel I was again asked which company I was with. I immediately asked about the football competition. They didn’t seem to know it was going on. So off I went into the night for my first taste of Abu Dhabi. Endless skyscrapers with neon lights highlighting the retail outlets at the bottom of the skyscrapers and the occasional sign on top for a hotel, guiding the way. That was until I spotted a shop – Adidas Factory Outlet. As a major supplier for my own football team I thought it was only right that I should pay them a visit. As I intended to take advantage of the corniche and running in the mornings a new pair of new running shorts appeared an appropriate purchase especially for only 5 pounds. Reaching the counter I noticed a sign sellotaped to the desk.” Gulf Cup tickets available to customers purchasing items from this store!”
I enquired, and was lucky enough to get the manager, who promptly produced tickets for the two games due to take place tomorrow. Not content with this, I explained I had come to watch the tournament and asked if he could be of any further help. He then went and gave me two more tickets for the day after.