Dubai & Sharjah Football League 1975
Association Football (Soccer) was introduced to Dubai by British Armed Forces based in Sharjah during the 1960s. Expatriates arriving in Dubai in early 1970s established Dubai Creek Football Club on land provided by Sheikh Rashid in Khor Dubai. As more Overseas Companies moved into Dubai in 70s, they also established football teams. By 1975 a number of teams were actively playing football in an informal and unorganised way. Inevitably these teams wanted to play competitive football so Dubai & Sharjah Football League was born.
The Meeting - October 1975
Ray Webster was Dubai Creek FC Captain. He explains.......
By 1975 Dubai's Creek FC was growing in membership. Keith Prothero and Martin Shepherd were two members of Creek FC. They felt even more interest would be generated if there was a properly established Football League. Already friendly matches were being played between Company Teams in Dubai and Sharjah. Keith and Martin contacted these Companies and placed an advertisement in newspapers. All Team Captains and Managers were invited to meet at Carlton Hotel in Deira to discuss the formation of a Football League.
How Dubai & Sharjah Football League established in 1975
Seven teams were represented at this first meeting - Bernard Sunleys, British Bank of the Middle East, Cable & Wireless, Creek Football Club, E.T.P.M., McDermotts, and Sharjah Contracts. Together they decided to form a Football League with the League Programme to start in early January 1976. A Working Committee was to arrange fixtures, rules and finances. E.T.P.M. from Sharjah won the League Title with Sharjah Contracts as Runners-Up. The League's first season was highly successful. At the end of the season a Seven-a-Side Competition was held at Creek FC ground. Dubai Rugby Club won and were the Seven-a-Side Soccer Champions! Later, of course, Dubai Rugby Club established their own very successful Rugby Sevens which has now become an international event.
In the following 1976/77 season several new teams were added but Sharjah Contracts again showed they were one of the League's top teams. However their main rival Creek FC defeated Sharjah Contracts FC 4-3 in the season's final game to become League Champions. Creek FC also won the Emirates Knock-Out Cup beating Sharjah Contracts 4-2 in front of a very large crowd at Sharjah Contracts ground to become the season's Double Champions.
Sponsorship leads to Hong Kong
1977/78 season brought significant changes to the football league with the addition of a second divisions. Rothmans Cigarettes and Cathay Pacific Airways jointly sponsored the Dubai & Sharjah Football League. These Sponsors invited Ray Webster as Creek FC Captain to form a Representative League Team to play Exhibition Matches in Hong Kong. In February 1979 he took a 16 man squad comprising of players from UK, South Africa and Cyprus on a 6 day tour of Hong Kong. The Touring Team won both its Exhibition Matches. Dubai & Sharjah Football League was now growing in status! Sponsorship opportunities were expanding and football was now the top expatriate sport.
Pele comes to Dubai
Brazilian Football Legend Pele visited UAE in 1982 as official guest at the Sixth Gulf Cup Football Championship Opening Ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
Pele also visited Dubai and opened Creek FC's new Clubhouse. Pele's first visit to Dubai was in 1973 when his club Santos played Al Nasr Club. Football in Dubai had come a long way since then.
It was a shame that Martin, Keith, myself and other founder members of Dubai & Sharjah Football League were no longer in Dubai to witness that momentous day in 1982.