Al Maktoum Stadium Opening 1978
British Servicemen based in Sharjah introduced Football to Dubai around 1945.
Football soon became a popular sport in Dubai. Dubai established Sports Clubs, Al Nasr Sports Club being Dubai's first Sports Club opening in 1945. They played their games on sand pitches near to Rashid Hospital until building a new modern Al Maktoum Stadium in 1978.
This new stadium was opened with a match against Liverpool FC.
Al Nasr's Al Maktoum Sports Stadium Dubai 1978
Al Nasr Sports Club is one of Dubai's founding Sports Clubs and first to build a modern sporting complex. Their Al Maktoum Stadium opened in 1978 with HH Sheikh Rashid attending. Opening was celebrated with a soccer match between Al Nasr Sports Club and Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool FC flew into Dubai for the midweek game. This was not the first time an overseas Football Club had visited Dubai. Al Nasr Sports Club had previously invited Arsenal FC to play Al Nasr at Al Nasr's old ground in 1976-77. In 1978 Liverpool FC was at its peak being UEFA European Cup Holders and FA Division 1 Champions. "The Reds" coming to "unknown" Dubai to play a local Team was major event. These were the days before international TV Sportscasts. To be able to see this great Team play in Dubai in a new modern Stadium was a unique experience for Dubaians and Expatriates alike.
Al Nasr Sports Stadium Official Opening
Al Maktoum Stadium was full long before the scheduled Kick Off at 7pm. Dubai had not run many major events back then but were rapidly learning how to put together an impressive Opening Ceremony. Dubai's Defence Force Skydiving Team opened the event by parachuting into the floodlit Stadium, landing on the centre spot. Their Helicopters then flew over the stadium at what seemed dangerously low levels, flying between the floodlight towers and barely clearing the perimeter wall. Next Dubai Police Band marched into the arena followed by two camels and their riders. One camel was draped in material of Liverpool's colour red, the other in Al Nasr's colour blue. Each rider carried a large sack. Prayers were said, speeches made and Al Maktoum Stadium declared open.
Doves of Peace!
As the Stadium was declared Open, the Camel Riders reached into their sacks and began releasing Doves of Peace into the air. Blue Doves from the Blue Camel. Red Doves from the Red Camel! These Doves had been spray painted in Team colours! As each Dove was plucked from the sack and launched into the air, it somersaulted through the air to land bemused on the Pitch! The Doves could not fly!! Their feathers were stuck together by the paint. Camel Riders began throwing out the Doves at an ever faster rate until their sacks were emptied. By then the football pitch was covered in dazed Blue and Red Walking Doves. Police Band and Camels left the Stadium. Now the match was to start - except - there were still Red and Blue Doves walking on the pitch! Groundsmen tried to collect the Doves but the Doves ran away in a constantly moving sea of red and blue. More Groundsmen arrived and slowly began to capture the Doves one by one until the Pitch was cleared and the game could start.
We had purchased safe animal dyes to colour the doves but someone unknown decided to use ordinary paint spray cans instead!
Al Nasr's Expatriate Public Relations Manager
What happened to the Doves?
Who knows! The Doves were last seen being pushed through the Safety Fence into the waiting hands of the crowd. Doves of Peace may have become "Pieces of Dove" in a post match feast! But that was Dubai as it used to be - well intentioned but........