Words: Terry Maddaford
Monday 28 September 2009
Picture: Phototek NZ
They might be thousands of kilometres from home in a foreign -- in all senses -- environment, but the Auckland City players had plenty of reasons to feel they are in familiar territory on their first day here ahead of next week’s Fifa Club World Cup in nearby Abu Dhabi.
Within a five-minute walk of the team hotel, and having to remember that the traffic approaches from the “wrong” side of the road, there is a Subway, Burger King and Star Shop even if they are mixed in with the expected number of more exotic eating houses.
For the players on their first visit to this part of the world -- and that appears to be most of them -- many things quickly become obvious in showing the Middle East is, indeed, different.
A short walk from the impressive Movenpick Bur Dubai Hotel -- yes the famous Swiss ice cream-maker owns this and many other equally-stunning hotels around the world -- introduces the players and support staff to sand -- it is everywhere -- flies and heat. And a skyline of cranes -- even if they are not quite the dominating feature they were in earlier times.
Even though winter is fast approaching, temperatures on arrival at 5am on Tuesday after almost 24 hours in getting here, were an amiable 20 degrees. By mid-day it was a little warmer but not unpleasant. But hopes of a quick, cooling dip in the hotel’s rooftop pool after training were dashed when it was discovered the pool is actually heated and remains at a constant 28 degrees.
Coach Paul Posa, impressed with the hotel and other amenities, wasted little time in getting down to work. He called for a light session a few hours after arrival and scheduled a second hour-long workout at 7.30pm local time as he prepares for Thursday night’s warm-up game.
The shake-down session got off to a rocky start when it was realised one important part of any session -- balls -- were missing. Johnny to the Rescue Arthur Egan promptly hailed the bus driver and made the quick trip back to the hotel to find the bag of balls which, as it turned out, were hardly needed as assistant coach Ramon Tribulielx put the players through their paces.
Posa expects there will be few changes in the team he will put out for Thursday’s warm-up game but is hoping many of the players will get at least some game time.
While not quite 100 per cent fit, Grant Young and Keryn Jordan are expected to come off the bench while Alex Feneridis is still a couple of days away from full fitness.
Determined to give his players the best chance of returning to a regular sleeping pattern, Posa scheduled a trip to the big Dubai Mall for a three-hour shopping spree? His reasoned that by keeping his players on their feet and off their beds they would be ready to sleep soundly after a second training session and then dinner.
Sun 29 Nov 2020, Kiwitea Street, Kick-off: 2pm