NEW YORK (CNN) – Supporting from the side lines of a sports field. This Emirati family watches a game not usually associated with the UAE. American football has touched down in the country and it is thriving, especially amongst the locals.
“The feeling you get when you get the ball and there’s someone in front of you and you know you can get passed them,” said Abdullah Al Alawy, Abu Dhabi Scorpions. Abdullah started playing just a few months ago but he already says he’d like to become a professional and maybe even play in the BFL. Plus, he’s got a lot of backing.
“My family likes it, because they think it’s good for me to have sport. And a lot of my friends want to join as well cause they find it cool that I’m doing something unique and different” said Abdullah.
It may be unique and different but since it kicked off around 2 years ago, the emirates American Football League has faced a quite few obstacles.
“One of our biggest challenges was just getting equipment, no one around here sells equipment. We had to ship everything from mouth guards to shoes. At the beginning, two more challenges were officials and coaches. We had seven coaches 2 and a half years ago and now we’ve got 53. So it was a case of reaching out to the community and they showed up en masse,” said Dustin Cherniawski, General Manager of EAFL.
Involving the community is a key play for Cherniawski. Not surprising then, that like the UAE itself, the league is incredibly diverse.
“We’ve got a real mix of nationalities, 42 in fact throughout the league, I would say about a third are from the United States and Canada and the rest from everywhere else. And it’s really amazing, the thing we hear over and over from these new nationalities is that I’ve always wanted to play. So that’s where we are, opportunity for these guy to experience authentic American football,” said Cherniawski. “American football in the UAE is still in its infancy but from the enthusiasm I’ve seen both on and of the field, this all American sport looks certain to feature on the Emirati landscape for years to come.”
For young players from the UAE, the American dream is very much alive and kicking.