DUBAI // Thousands of fans from home and abroad gathered at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai yesterday to cheer on their national teams in a rugby extravaganza.
Music, dance, fancy dress, friendly banter and an electric atmosphere were the order of the day for the Dubai Sevens.
Spectators became an intrinsic part of the entertainment as fans dressed as sailors, nuns, Superman and more whistled and applauded as their favourite team took to the field.
The tournament – a World Rugby event – is fast-paced with seven players on each side attempting to get the upper hand in two halves of seven minutes.
It is one of the biggest sporting events in Dubai, attracting some of the sport’s top players.
Viraj Attapattu, 36, a Sri Lankan who has been a fan of rugby since childhood, said he came to the stadium every year for the event.
“Rugby is a big part of my life,” the travel consultant said.
“I played it when I was a in school and in college in my homeland for almost 11 years.
“Then when I moved to Dubai, I also played in various clubs.
“I liked the atmosphere of the Dubai Sevens where everybody comes to enjoy themselves.
“It is also the place where I meet new friends and rugby fans.”
Irishman James Friel, 52, came from Qatar to watch the tournament. He has been a fan of the sport for almost 30 years.
“I knew about the Dubai Sevens through friends living here and I came to watch the rugby games and be entertained,” Mr Friel said.
Teletubbies-costume wearing Nathanael Dean, 28, came from England to go to the tournament.
The big draw, he said, was the electric atmosphere as well as being able to watch his favourite sport. “It is my first visit to Dubai,” he said. “I came especially to watch the matches.”
Tourist Gabrielle DuFeu arrived in Dubai two days ago to see her favourite team play.
“I came to support Wales and to have fun,” the 23-year-old said.
“The atmosphere and weather are amazing and people are so friendly here.”
Brits Ms DuFeu and her friend Rebecca Jones, 24, were wearing mouse costumes and said they had made friends from all different cultures and countries while at the tournament.
Niroshan Hattiarchchi, 32, a Sri Lankan who works in Dubai came to the event with friends to watch the matches and socialise.
“The event’s atmosphere is gorgeous,” he said.
“I am enjoying it with the music, dance, food and drinks, and enjoying watching the games physically and on the big screens.”
Brigitte Beffeyte, 42, came from France with her nine-year-old daughter to watch her friend’s son play in the tournament.
“I came on Friday to watch my friend’s son Matisse Lebel and to support him in the final,” Ms Beffeyte said.