Tales from the sandpit: A West Ham fan’s dilemma in Dubai

I have a dilemma. Not a massive dilemma it has to be said, we’re not talking about an Olympic Stadium vs Boleyn Ground style dilemma or anything like that, but it’s a dilemma all the same.

As the opening match of a new Premier League season approaches I always get wistfully nostalgic of Augusts past. It’s that anticipation of being back on the 104, opening the door for the first time and marching to the bar at the Duke of Edinburgh, squeezing through with my beer before standing at the yard at the back and basking in the glory of a season full
of hope and promise, the 90 minutes ahead full of passion, skill and grace, a domineering performance that’ll strike fear through the other teams in the league.

But these memories slip further and further into the past each passing season. Why? Well, I don’t live in London anymore. I packed up and left Stratford in 2004 and took up a job in Dubai, abandoning the season ticket along the way and the fortnightly trip to the Duke.

And that’s what’s lead to the dilemma of August 2012 because my West Ham experiences are more often than not intrinsically linked with alcohol. I’m pretty much sure most fans’ experiences are, judging by repeated visits to the hostelries located along Green Street because, let’s face it, watching West Ham sober is tantamount to sticking pins
in your eyes or administering a spot of self-dentistry using a variety of kitchen utensils and a couple of straws.

Even watching West Ham after two pints is painful but is just about do-able. But being almost unable to stagger to your seat in the Bobby Moore at 2.59 is likely to ensure
the next 90 minutes of your life will fly-by in a haze of jovial banter, slurred singing, pointless hurling of insults and random cursing. The efforts of 22 players on the pitch is merely fuel to the fire.

Round that off lurching to the Queens Arms before heading home to watch in astonishment, action you’ve absolutely no recollection of on Match of The Day and that’s pretty much the perfect Saturday. And this is the problem.

Dubai, as you are well aware, is in the United Arab Emirates, a Muslim country that observes Muslim cultures, one of which is Ramadan. And Ramadan affects the licensing laws which means getting a drink in daylight hours at a bar is as likely as Linda topping the Premier League goal-scoring chart come May.

As sunset was 7.20 when Ramadan begun, it means you cannot get a drink in a bar until 8pm. Kick-off is at 6pm. But that’s not the end of it. No, there’s more trauma. At the end of Ramadan which is going to be this weekend, there is a three-day holiday.

The night before this holiday is dry and as the start the holiday, known as Eid, is based on a moon sighting, we don’t know yet when the holiday will start. If it were to start on Sunday, then there is no chance of a drink at any bar at all on Saturday night.*

To add to the general gloom, this Saturday was due to be the inaugural match gathering of the newly formed supporters club here in Dubai. What could be worse than gathering in a bar to watch your favourite team full of long-term Hammers sufferers without being able to dabble in a drink or ten? (Perhaps being stuck in a bar full of Tottenham supporters without a drink, now that I think of it).

But it’s that or stay at home slouched on the sofa watching on the telly with little or no atmosphere. (Well, it is the Boleyn after all!) So, as I said, not the greatest dilemma the world has had to grapple with but a dilemma all the same – one which’ll fade into obscurity should the mighty Hammers deliver the three points on Saturday.

I’ll report on the exploits of the Dubai-based Claret and Blue Army when there’s more fuel to stoke the fire so to speak so for now it’s cometh the man, cometh the hour or whatever cliché we should put in at this stage and wish West Ham all the best for Saturday from the Hammers in Dubai. COYI!

(*I would like to point out that I am in no way, shape or form criticising the rules, regulations, customs and cultures of Ramadan.)

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