The UAE Builds Bridges From the USA and Beyond Through Soccer

While men’s baseball may be the team to watch at UC Irvine for the rest of spring, the soccer season never ends for some international students.

The Communication Club at UCI hosted a six-team soccer tournament on Saturday, May 16 that worked both to create competition and raise awareness about the United Arab Emirates at UCI.

Although each team was officially given a generic name (for example: Team 1, Team 2, etc.), Team 6, who dubbed themselves: “The United Arab Emirates Team” quickly proved to be the standout competitors. The team promoted their country on the field with red, green, white and black balloons (the colors of the UAE flag) and inflatable metallic letters spelling out “UAE Abu Dhabi,” drew attention to other event festivities.

Ali Alkathiri, a UCI Extension student who was born in the UAE, was one of the chief organizers of the event.

“All the people around here maybe don’t know about the United Arab Emirates very well; we have to give them [an] idea about my country,” Alkathiri said.

To do this the group had various books and pamphlets available that informed attendees of the country’s two most notable cities, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. According to Alkathiri, more people know about Dubai than the rest of his country because of Dubai’s strong presence in the international economic community. Although Alkathiri is pleased that part of his country is acknowledged internationally, he believes that most people fail to realize that Dubai is part of the bigger UAE community along with UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi.

According to Rowena Santos, the Acting Activities Coordinator at English and Certificates for Internationals at UCI Extension, the event was first planned at the beginning of last quarter and aimed specifically at international students. Although Santos stated that the Communication Club has never held a soccer tournament before, soccer is no stranger to international student activities.

“[In] America they don’t really have that much of a passion for soccer … but our international students, they do, and so this is their big game, their big sport in most of their countries … every time we have a barbecue there’s always a soccer game going,” Santos said.

Even though the UAE Team sliced through the competition, defeating two teams, 7-0 and 2-1 and tying another team 1-1 before heading into the final round, the tournament featured more than just UAE players. The event brought together students from other countries such as Korea, Mexico, Chile, Turkey and Brazil. Aside from wearing out their cleats, these students also enjoyed Khaliji music and dined on beef Kabsa, barehanded but with plenty of napkins.

Heading into the final round of the tournament, UAE Team member Hashem Aljunaibi remarked that he noticed that there were not too many Americans in attendance. However, he still thought the event was successful as it brought together UCI’s international community.

“[Americans] like basketball and football … [but, there are] a lot of people from different countries and we make good contact with them,” Aljunaibi said.

Although there may have been a shortage of Americans in attendance, the event proved to be diverse beyond simply ethnicity. For example, Jaber Alqubaisi, who worked as one of the event’s organizers, was more invested in the day’s UAE cultural festivities, but had fun watching soccer just the same.

“I watched, not all of the games, but a little bit. I don’t know [much about] soccer, [but] I enjoyed the matches,” Alqubaisi said. “Frankly, [by] competing we meet our classmates.”

The UAE Team emerged victorious in the tournament finals defeating Team 1, 4-1.