Dubai loves Italian footballers and clubs. Football legends like Italian defensive Juventus player Fabio Cannavaro who joined Al-Ahli in Dubai, where he retired from football a year later in 2011, are much admired. Cannavaro made 16 appearances for the Dubai club, and made two goals. Afterwards, he became part of the coaching staff of Al-Ahli, notably as global ambassador and technical director from 2011 to 2013 and assistant coach from 2013 to 2014.
Walter Zenga, a long-time goalkeeper for the Italian national team and Internazionale, after having coached two Italian teams (Palermo and Catania) moved to the UAE in 2011 where he accepted an offer from United Arab Emirates Al Nasr club, only to have his contract terminated after five months.
Billy Costacurta, an Italian football manager and a former professional defender—having spent some twenty years playing for AC Milan between 1987 and 2007—is another well-known figure in the Emirates. At the Dubai Tour 2014, he talked about Leonardo QP in an interview with DubaiBlog about the benefits of sports science. He mentioned that a range of Italian doctors have gone to Dubai in turn in order to operate in the Leonardo QP Medical Centre. The centre is inside al Wasl Sport Club Complex and it opened its doors for the Professional Sportsmen and for the Public providing multiple services in healthcare.
In terms of football sponsorships, the Fly Emirates logo will appear on Milan’s jersey until the 2019/2020 season. From a branding perspective, Emirates did great in securing sponsorship of one of Italy’s most successful soccer clubs, which mirrors the drive and ambitions of Emirates. AC Milan brings a valuable partner for Emirates marketing brand, says Mr. Clark, and makes the company a Top Institutional Sponsor for football brands.
UAE football fans, last year, had a chance to meet some of the AC Milan players at the Dubai Football Challenge that was held at The Sevens Stadium on December 30. Real Madrid that is also sponsored by Fly Emirates was beaten by AC Milan in a mid-season friendly match that day.
Just like Serie A rival AC Milan, Juventus also travelled to Dubai for a friendly match against Al Hilal Saudi Football Club some years ago (in 2012) with Del Piero scoring two goals in Juventus’ 7-1 victory. A Juventus club has been created, the JSS Dubai. Located within the Dubai Municipality Sports ground, the Juventus Soccer School (JSS) offers youth football camps to children and young adults aged between 3-16 years old to train and perfect their football skills on the field. The coaches are specifically selected and recognized by Juventus FC. Former Juventus football attacker Alessandro Del Piero has described the Juventus’ training camp in Dubai as a positive experience.
The Juventus Club DOC Dubai Del Piero & Scirea, which has been named after two players that have had great success with Juventus, is followed by many Arab football fans. In addition, Inter Club UAE Dubai, dedicated to Massimo Moratti, is another Italian Football Team with a presence at Casa Italia/Mainline Interiors in the Persian Gulf Emirate.
It is no surprise that the football/soccer team jerseys of famous players are big sellers within the UAE. Both teams and players’ jerseys from Italian Serie A are sold in abundance. Soccer jersey sales of former players like Alessandro Del Piero are also selling in big numbers.
Del Piero is considered one of the greatest living footballers named on FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living footballers, just like former Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta – a prior Fiorentina and Roma striker.
Overall, a few Italian teams and players have made Dubai their base, and to be part, in different capacities, of the United Arab Emirates Football League.