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One of the priorities emphasized by Sheikh Zayed is the building of sports facilities for the youth of the UAE. Sports clubs have been formed with government support, stadiums built and football has become the national game. First-class government and private sports and leisure centers have been established throughout the country. As a result, UAE citizens now participate eagerly at home and abroad in a wide range of modern sports and leisure activities, from basketball and bowling, to golf, cricket and ice hockey. Despite the eagerness with which the UAE has embraced these contemporary activities, heritage sports continue to have a strong following: camel-racing and traditional boat-racing are subjects of a major heritage revival movement. Traditional skills honed in the past have also been developed in sports in which the UAE competes with considerable success internationally, such as powerboat-racing and various forms of equestrianism. International recognition has also been forthcoming for the staging of spectacular events and invitation tournaments in the UAE, especially in sports such as golf, tennis and snooker. These events attract world-class international sportsmen, increasing awareness of such competitive sports in the UAE, thereby encouraging wider participation, as well as assisting in the drive to promote tourism.


Football remains the most popular sport in the UAE. Promotion of the sport through football clubs at schools and colleges, as well as at local, regional and national levels, has paid dividends in terms of raising the standard of the game in the country. 
Twenty-six football clubs, each with approximately 150 players, are currently affiliated with the UAE Football Association (UAE FA), which was established in 1971. The UAE FA joined FIFA in 1972, followed by both the Arab Football and Asian Soccer federations in 1974. In 1999 Al Ain Football Club reached the semi-finals of the Asian Club League Winners Championships. The national team, however, had a disappointing year and is now preparing for the year 2000 Asian Cup in Lebanon.

for more information, visit UAE Football Association


Camel-racing, a traditional sport, is extremely popular in the Emirates. It was originally staged in an informal setting, at weddings or special festivals, but now customized tracks  have been built throughout the country where race meetings are held in the winter months from October to April, culminating in the annual camel race festival at Al Wathba which attracts entrants from all over the world.

Sheikh Zayed’s sponsorship of the Zayed Grand Prize camel races, also held at Al Wathba racetrack to celebrate UAE National Day, is an indication of the special focus and encouragement given to the revival of heritage sports and camel-racing festivals as an occasion for the gathering of UAE citizens. The necessity to formulate rules and regulations for the sport has required the establishment of the Camel-Racing Federation which is now responsible for guiding and controlling camel-racing events in the Emirates and promoting events abroad. One such international event, the Sheikh Zayed’s President’s Cup, held in Sydney, Australia in September 1999 for the second consecutive year, has proved to be a popular event which also raises considerable funds for the Australian Research Institute for Child Cancer. 

A heritage festival held at the same time around a tent erected between the Modern Arts Museum and the Sydney Opera Theatre attracted large crowds.


As a result of the growth in the popularity of camel-racing, greater attention has been paid to the challenges of breeding, including application of the latest technology. The Al Ain-based Embryo Transfer Research Center for Racing Camels, established in 1989, has pioneered artificial insemination and embryo transfer in camels. Associated with the scientific research programme a well-equipped veterinary hospital has been built, which is engaged not only in treating sick camels but also in advising owners on the best possible care for their animals. The Camel Reproduction Center in Dubai has also  pioneered breeding methods and is the instigator of a cross breeding programme which produced Rama the ‘cama’, the world's first hybrid between a camel and llama. The center's focus is on artificial insemination and embryo transfer and the same techniques apply in both the ‘cama’ and camel breeding programmes. The center is working on ways to produce better racing camels, not necessarily faster racing camels, but animals of better genetic stock, in addition to improving the freezing of embryos and semen.


The horse has always been an essential part of Arab life. Until recently, however, the relationship took the form of an enduring partnership based upon survival in one of the world’s toughest environments. With the arrival of prosperity, the Emirate's relationship with the horse made a crucial shift from survival to recreation. To day, all forms of equestrian sport are enormously popular in the UAE, with the pure-bred Arabian horse still having pride of place.

In 1985 the UAE joined the Federation Equestre International (FEI) and the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation was formed in 1992 with the clear mission to promote and sponsor equestrian sport in the UAE. Since the Federation’s inception, equestrian  sport has become focused and highly successful. Racing has already taken its place on the world stage and show jumping and endurance riding are now poised to follow its lead.
The Federation, implementing Sheikh Zayed’s directives, hosts an auction of Arab thoroughbreds each December to provide opportunities for citizens to own race horses and participate in the revival of sports associated with the country's heritage. A number of horses trained for racing, endurance races, polo and jumping are sold at the auction.

for more information, visit UAE Arabian Horse Racing Results

Endurance riding involves long-distance racing over a gruelling course under strictly-controlled conditions for horse and rider. Pure-bred Arab horses, bred for stamina in inhospitable terrain over thousands of years, are particularly suited to this demanding sport and, consequently, it has become immensely popular in the UAE.

Riders of international stature frequently compete in the country: 1998 was particularly eventful since a very successful 160-kilometre FEI World Endurance Championship was held in the UAE in December. Most of the top riders and horses from the world  endurance riding circuit were once again back in the UAE the following March, four days before the Dubai World Cup, to race in a ‘champion of champions’ endurance ride. The 130-kilometre FEI World's Most Preferred Endurance Ride, organized by the Equestrian and Racing Federation, featured winners of the world's top Endurance Rides over the previous three years. Heading the list of riders was 1998 world endurance champion Valery Kanavy, 1997 champion Danielle Kanavy, Fausto Fiorucci of Italy (WEC '98 second place), Daisuke Yasunaga of Japan (WEC '98 third place) and other top champions. Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum was victorious in this tough contest, confirming the UAE as a force to be reckoned with in the sport of endurance riding. UAE riders also took second and third places, with three other UAE riders finishing in the top ten.

The UAE team regularly travels abroad to compete on the international circuit, with much success. In fact, Sheikh Rashid was rated fifth best in the world in 1998 by the Endurance and Long Distance Rides International Committee (ELDRIC) based on his performance in Europe. In 1999 the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation again sent a strong team abroad to competitions, including Syria, Landivisiau, France, Lenzburg, Switzerland, Wicklow, Ireland and the European Open Championship in Spain and Portugal. Eight of the nine UAE riders who completed the FEI CEI-B 120-kilometre event in Syria finished in the top 10 with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum gaining the overall prize. The team also scored a thrilling win in the FEI Open Under-21 European Endurance Riding Championship in Donaueschingen - Germany in August, having already performed well in Campaigned in France and Tattersalls in New market, England, in their first two events on the European circuit.

At the end of August the UAE's Mubarak Shafya capped a momentous season when, against considerable odds, he won the 206-kilometre Wicklow Hills Endurance Ride Maktoum Cup. Also in August, Sheikh Ahmed bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, representing his country and the sole Middle East competitor, won the prestigious Queensland State Championship Endurance Ride, the first non-Australian ever to do so.


Professional racing as it is now practiced in the UAE did not begin until the season of 1991–92. During the 1990s the sport enjoyed phenomenal growth throughout the UA E, and the country now boasts a number of prestigious racing venues and hosts the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup. A recent innovation but already one of the most talked about races in the sport's history, the 1999 Emirates-sponsored Dubai World Cup, held at Nad al-Sheba race course in March, had a total guaranteed purse of US $5 million – an increase of US $1 million over 1998. Other increases in sponsorship brought the total prize money on the night to a staggering US $6.25 million. The 1999 event provided the Dubai-based Godolphin stable with their greatest sporting triumph, when unfancied Almutawakel, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by Richard Hills, won in record-breaking time. Under the guidance of the Emirates Racing Association, horse-racing has achieved full international status and the Dubai World Cup has been awarded the sport’s coveted Group One status, which places the race on a level with the Derby, Oaks and Arc de Triomphe classics.

The UAE has also gained a well-earned reputation in international horse-racing. In August the Godolphin-owned Dubai Millennium won the Prix Jacques le Marois – the syndicate's eleventh Group One prize in a season which included wins with Diktat in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, Daylami in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, Aljabr in the Sussex Stakes and Zahrat Dubai in the Nassau Stakes.

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