Trying to find a sport that is not enjoyed in the UAE is rather difficult. The UAE, in fact, is often the stage for widely-followed international events in a variety of sports from golf to sailing, horse racing and soccer.
UAE Heritage sports, also, continue to have a strong audience; camel-racing and traditional boat-racing are extremely popular activities that are staging spectacular events and invitation tournaments in the UAE. In addition, falconry is still a popular sport as it is a status symbol among the nobles of the Middle East.
Among the wide range of UAE modern sports, the most popular professional games and leisure time activities, include:
- Football (soccer) remains the most popular sport in the UAE at local, regional and national levels. The United Arab Emirates Football Association has dedicated much time and effort to promoting the game.
- Cricket is also very popular especially since the UAE national cricket team qualified for the 1996 Cricket World Cup; after that feat, it became one of the most favorite and most popular sports. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council that features several matches.
- Horse racing is another popular sport that has become more popular than camel racing. Aside from the many horse racing clubs located in UAE, Dubai also hosts the richest horse race in the world, the Dubai World Cup horse race.
- Tennis as a spectator sport is growing. The popularity of the game is proved by television ratings and the increasing numbers of UAE watching the annual Dubai Tennis Championships, i.e. a WTA and ATP event, in which top tennis players come to compete.
- Motor sports Formula 1 racing on Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Yas Marina Circuit brings an incredible audience of spectators attending the annual event. UAE’s motor racing showrooms and museums are visited by many as they feature some of the world’s most famous sport car models, like Ferrari and Lamborghini to name a few.
- Golf is also increasing in popularity with more and more families enjoying the game also as spectators.
- Basketball is followed and also played a lot by many in the UAE.
- Rugby (the full-contact sport and touch version) is popular too; often played but also enjoyed on TV.
As far as UAE’s most followed sporting events on TV, well as in many counters in the world football (FIFA World Cup) is a winner, followed by cricket (ICC Cricket World Cup), golf (The European Tour – DP World Tour Championship & Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic event), rugby (Dubai Sevens leg of the IRB Sevens World Series & Six Nations Rugby Tournament), basketball (NBA), tennis (ATP World Tour), motorsports (Middle East Rally Championship & Formula 1), powerboat-racing (X-Cat), cycling (the Dubai Tour & Abu Dhabi Tour), horse-racing (the Dubai World Cup), and so on.
There are plenty of UAE national and major international sporting events to choose from to suit all sports enthusiasts, those who want to play or those who would rather be spectators.