Sport in the UAE: a bright future?

In 10 years’ time, which sports might the UAE excel at?

Peter Iantorno April 23, 2015

Sport hasn't always been top of the agenda for the UAE, with big-business developments and tourism-boosting projects such as the Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah often taking up large chunks of national investment. But as the young country grows, so does its potential for sporting success.

Here are four sports that the UAE might well excel at in 10 years' time.


The UAE hasn't got a brilliant history when it comes to football, with the likes of Iran and its powerhouse neighbour Saudi Arabia overshadowing it somewhat in the past, and the East Asian teams such as Japan and South Korea historically far superior.

However, after a particularly impressive performance in this year's Asian Cup, where the UAE finished in third place, losing only to eventual winners Australia, The UAE are now top seeds in World Cup qualifying and it appears that the tide may now be turning.

While the current crop of the likes of Omar Abdulrahman, above, are providing some immediate success, the other boost of having a successful national team is that it is inspiring today's youngsters, who also have the benefit of state-of-the-art facilities to train in. Don't rule out the UAE for a place at the business end of the World Cup by the time Qatar 2022 rolls around.UAE football teamJiu-Jitsu

For a sport that the UAE is already pretty good at, look no further than the marital art of Jiu-jitsu. With the country's top-ranked competitor Faisal Al Ketbi set to step up to the black-belt division after winning gold in the brown belt last year, now is an exciting time for the sport.

But for an idea of how the UAE is going to fare in the future, the best indicator has to be the youngsters, and in Jiu-Jitsu, it's safe to say that the future looks extremely bright, as this year's World Jiu-Jitsu Children's Cup, which took place this week in Abu Dhabi, was completely dominated by the UAE.

The UAE team ended the competition with a staggering 359 medals, making them by far the most successful at the tournament. With youngsters like that, surely a golden age of UAE Jiu-Jitsu is on the horizon. Faisal Al Ketbi Jiu-Jitsu


The UAE has won one Olympic gold medal in its history, and that was at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games in the ‘double trap’ shooting event by Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher Al Maktoum.

In the decade or so following that win, with Sheikh Ahmed now retired no UAE athlete has been able to replicate the form that earned the country its solitary gold medal. However, things could very well be about to change, as Sheikh Ahmed himself is now coaching a promising UAE team of Olympic hopefuls.

Not only that, but he also launched the Nad Al Sheba World Sporting Clays Championship, the world's most anticipated annual desert shooting tournament, so interest in the sport is only going to grow. Could we have another Olympic champion in the next decade? Here's hoping.Sheikh Ahmed bin HasherSevens Rugby

We all know about the Dubai Rugby Sevens - a storied event that sees some of the best Sevens players from all over the world descend on Dubai to show their skills. But last year's tournament was special: for the first time in the tournament's 45-year history, an all-Emirati team played on the main field.

The landmark moment was played out between Dubai’s Al Maarif School and Al Ain Mixed School, and for a country that has little to no rugby heritage to speak of, to get to this stage is already a massive achievement.

For the future more than 3,000 boys and girls, including a group of 150 boys at under-18 and under-19 level are now training in the sport regularly, and the hope is that this will bring through a new generation of talent. They've still got a long way to come before the likes of the All Blacks or last year's winners South Africa will be worried, but the future is looking good for UAE Sevens.Dubai rugby Sevens