Football fever grips Dubai

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Dietmar Beiersdorf (left), Director of Sports, Hamburg SV, speaks at the Press conference with their Argentine star Juan Pablo Sorin at the launch of the Dubai Football Challenge at Murooj Rotana Hotel yesterday

Gulfnews - Dubai looks set to fall under football's spell when some of Europe's biggest football clubs battle it out in two tournaments being staged simultaneously.

Top German clubs Hamburg and Vfb Stuttgart clash with Iran and the UAE national teams for the Dubai Challenge Cup 2007 at the Al Nasr Club's Maktoum Stadium while eight-time French champions Marseille take on Italy's Lazio, Portugal's Benfica and German giants Bayern Munich in the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid International Football Challenge at the Al Ahli Club's Rashid Stadium.

The Dubai Football Challenge 2007 kicks-off today with Iran playing Hamburg at 5 pm and the UAE taking on Stuttgart at 7.30pm.

All four teams are well prepared for the tournament. The UAE are using it to brush up their skills ahead of the prestigious Gulf Cup, which starts on January 17.

One of the many stars on view at the Al Nasr Stadium will be Hamburg's Argentinian import Juan Pablo Sorin.

"We are pleased to be in Dubai and play in the Challenge Cup 2007," said Sorin at a press conference yesterday. "We hope it will be a good preparation for us to improve our position in the Bundesliga before it resumes in the third week of January."

Hamburg have had a disappointing season so far and are just one place from the bottom of the 18-team table in the Bundesliga. They have won only once in 17 matches.

The Dubai Challenge Cup 2007 is being held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Executive Council and President of the Dubai Sports Council.

Hamad Mohammad Bin Mejrin, manager inward missions, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) predicted a bright future for the tournament.

"The DTCM undertakes international promotional and marketing campaigns to highlight Dubai's strengths and opportunities," he said.

Horst Heldt, sporting director Vfb Stuttgart, hoped that the Challenge Cup will get bigger and more important in the future. He said it was an honour for his club to take part in the tournament.

"To get such high class teams for the first tournament is a testament to its global appeal," Heldt said.

Iranian skipper Ali Reza Nickbakht Vahedi said that the tournament is a good preparation for the Asian Cup finals.

However, his coach Amir Ghalenoi said: "The main objectives of this tournament is not to win or lose, but to strengthen ties between our countries and participants."

UAE national team skipper Mohammad Omar said that the tournament will sharpen the team before the Gulf Cup.

SCHEDULE
Today: 5pm: Hamburg SV v Iran.
7.30 pm: UAE v VfB Stuttgart.
January 10
5 pm: Iran v VfB Stuttgart 7.30 pm: UAE v Hamburg SV.
All matches at Al Nasr Stadium.

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