Hoolie watch

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What was one of the things that happened when hooliganism was rampant in the English game? Restrictions on the sale of alcohol. What was one of the things that happened this week after trouble broke out at an international here in Abu Dhabi? A ban on water.

Two defeats in recent days, to North Korea and Saudi Arabia, have left the United Arab Emirates with little chance after all of reaching the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. And they have left UAE fans in angry mood.

Fifa launched disciplinary proceedings after crowd trouble at the North Korea game. If you ever found yourself anywhere near England low life in action, especially at internationals abroad, you’d probably wonder what the fuss was about.

Plastic drinks cups, water bottles (again plastic) and juice cartons were hurled by some spectators cross about the UAE’s ineffectual performance. Unpleasant, maybe, but hardly even Charleroi, let alone Marseille or other other settings for riots involving our lot. Click on the photograph and you get the measure of it…..

But the authorities are putting their feet down. The UAE is not a dry country, but alcohol is not available to spectators attending football games. So all they could ban was things being thrown: water and soft drinks.

It seems to have worked. In the equally disappointing Saudi match, the crowd was mostly on good behaviour. With one exception. The fan who threw – wait for it – “an expensive looking watch” in the direction of the ref. Rolex or fake, it’s got to have the edge over chucking coins.

I am not sure whether the watch was recovered. But there’s no truth in rumours that police feel they need time to conclude the investigation.

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