Darts has been booming in the UK and beyond for some time and after a successful foray into the UAE in 2013, the best in the business are in town once again.
Eight players – led by reigning Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters champion Michael van Gerwen, 16- time World Champion Phil Taylor and new Premier League Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld – will contest the second staging of the World Series of Darts event at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Thursday and Friday night.
The tournament also features UK Open champion Adrian Lewis, former European Champion Simon Whitlock, seven-time major winner James Wade and Premier League Darts stars Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall.
Sally Edwards, director of Dubai Calendar, said: “Complementing a sporting line-up including the richest horse race in the world, the Dubai World Cup, the annual Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters is yet another example of the emirate’s first-class sporting events offering.
"Welcoming darting champions from across the globe, the Masters not only delights Dubai’s expat community, but also showcases the traditional 1800’s pub game of darts to a diversity of cultures currently unfamiliar with the sport.
"We look forward to welcoming these international darting heavyweights to the city, and to seeing the delight on the faces of supporters and newcomers to the sport at The Irish Village as the drama unfolds.”
So if you’ve booked your tickets for the two-day event then you’re in for a treat as the men set to battle it out have proven themselves to be the sport’s elite. If you haven’t then there will still be tickets (first come, first served) on the night.
Spectators must be 21 and over, with ticket prices starting from Dh250 for one day, and Dh399 for an event pass.
Van Gerwen, who will face Wade first, will be looking to make it two successive wins in Dubai, but knows he will have to adapt to playing outdoors to get the job done.
He said: “Last year I handled the conditions quite well so I’m really looking forward to trying to win it again. I like to play in Dubai as it is something very different for us.
“There is always a bit of extra pressure being number one but I think I am handling it well. I was the favourite going into the world championships and I won them so I am feeling confident."
He added: “James Wade is a fantastic player and we are very good friends. I actually stayed in his house before flying out and I just knew I would be drawn against him.
“He’s a very good player but has struggled a little in the last year, whereas I have enjoyed some really good form.”
Meanwhile, Van Barneveld arrives having just bagged the Premier League title, but says he has already had a wobble to remind him he’ll have to apply himself.
“I was extremely happy with the win (the Premier League) last Thursday but I played two pro tours on Saturday and Sunday and went out in the first round so it put me back down to earth,” he said. “I played really badly those two days so maybe there was too much going on in my head after winning the Premier League. It makes me sharp for this week though.”
Barny admits coming to Dubai adds a touch of glamour and plans to cope with playing outdoors by using different flights on his darts.
“It’s the whole atmosphere (here in Dubai), your family, everyone is jealous,” he said. “You feel like a popstar. I could get used to that!
“At the venue if you play fast then the draft can’t get a hold of a dart so perhaps it will help Michael (van Gerwen).
“But if you play with a bow like I do then it can go straight in fives or 12s which is why I put a different flight on.”
Usually the headline act, however, is the 16-time world champ, Taylor – and ‘the Power’ is keen to put on a show.
He said: “I’d love to win this. I don’t keep trophies in my house to be honest but this is one I would keep. I love Dubai and it’s getting better. It’s a tournament I’ve never won and I want to win everything before I retire.”
Thursday, May 29, from 8pm (Best of 19 legs)
Adrian Lewis v Raymond van Barneveld
Simon Whitlock v Dave Chisnall
Phil Taylor v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Friday, May 30, from 8pm (Best of 21 legs)
Van Gerwen/Wade v Lewis/Van Barneveld
Taylor/Wright v Whitlock/Chisnall
WHAT: Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters.
WHEN: Thursday and Friday from 20:00
WHERE: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Irish Village.
COST: One-day ticket from Dh250. Event pass Dh399. AGES: 21+.
Sport360 VERDICT: It’s the second time the competition will be held in the UAE, and with the biggest names in the sport here, it will be two nights of top quality matches.
Residents and visitors to the UAE will be able to play badminton for free at this year’s Dubai Sports World as part of a wide-ranging Badminton World Federation (BWF) grassroots initiative called Shuttle Time Dubai.
Led by the Dubai Sports Council, Shuttle Time Dubai aims to encourage people from all walks of life – regardless of age, ability and fitness level – to play badminton as a fun and social way of being more active.
The initiative is part of the recently-announced multi-platform partnership between Dubai and the BWF, which includes the inaugural hosting of the BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals this December 17th – 21st.
With six full-size badminton courts at Dubai Sports World open daily for a minimum of 14 hours over 80 days between June 12th and August 30th to anyone who would like to try the game for the first time or existing players looking to develop their skills.
All equipment is provided at no additional cost.
“Dubai Sports World already has a large, vibrant and multi-national community of fans and followers for Shuttle Time to engage with. It is the perfect partner to help us achieve our objective of taking badminton to as wide an audience as possible,” said Dr. Ahmad Al Sharif, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council.
Spanning more than 20,000m² of indoor space, Dubai Sports World will occupy Sheikh Saeed Halls 1 and 2 and the multi-purpose Trade Centre Arena at DWTC.
In addition to six badminton courts, the expansive venue will feature eight pro-standard pitches for five or seven-a-side football and rugby, one volleyball court, three basketball courts, one tennis court, a cricket pitch, a skate-boarding and BMX park, a state-of-the-art gym, a 600-metre running track and tiered seating for over 1,200 spectators.
A climbing wall is also being introduced this year, while the free-to-enter Entertainment Zone will boast 12 table tennis tables, four pool tables and two foosball tables.
“Badminton has traditionally been one of the most popular sports at Dubai Sports World, this innovative grassroots initiative held in collaboration with Dubai Sports Council and Shuttle Time will not only increase participation in the sport on a local level but also act as a fun and social way of being more active,” said Ahmed Alkhaja, Senior Vice President – Venues, DWTC, the Dubai Sports World host and organiser.
“Now people booking and playing other sports can opt to come down a little early and try something new – it’s a fantastic scheme and represents a strong value-added proposition for our community of sports fans.”
For more information or to book a space at Dubai Sports World, visit www.dubaisportsworld.ae or call +971 4 306 4000. Reservations for all sports including badminton are handled on a first-come, first-served basis.
In a first for ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, a state school has introduced sports for girls, after a call for the lifting of a ban on women in sports, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Girls at Amal Institute in the Red Sea city of Jeddah competed in a volleyball tournament last week after the school built new sports facilities, also for basketball,tennis and hockey, Al-Hayat said.
In April, the Muslim kingdom's Shura Council, a consultative body, recommended after a heated debate that the longstanding ban, already relaxed in private schools last year, be scrapped.
The appointed body, whose 150 members are overwhelmingly male, can only pass on its recommendation to the education ministry and has no powers to impose it.
All education in Saudi Arabia is strictly single-sex, but sports in girls' schools remains a sensitive issue in the Gulf state, where women have to cover from head to toe when in public.
The council cited a ruling by the kingdom's late top cleric, or grand mufti, Sheikh Abdel Aziz bin Baz, that women were entitled to play sports "within the limits set by Islamic law."
The topic of Saudi women in sport came under the spotlight at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, when the kingdom bowed to international pressure and sent female athletes to compete for the first time.
The International Olympic Committee agreed to allow the two Saudi women — a judo player and a middle-distance runner — to compete with their heads and bodies covered in deference to the Islamic dress code enforced in Saudi Arabia.
But despite their participation, Human Rights Watch says that millions of Saudi women remain effectively barred from sports.
Saudi authorities shut down private gyms for women in 2009 and 2010, and women are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public.