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[June 10, 2014]
Either be in or search it out [National, The (United Arab Emirates)]
(National, The (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Are you panicking yet? If you have not got your BeIn World Cup channels, then now is a good time to start.
Thursday sees Game 1 of the World Cup: Brazil v Croatia. Thursday also sees the climax of an ordeal that football fans in the UAE are dragged into, kicking and screaming, every four years.
That is, getting the right channels in time for the big kick off.
There was a time – until 1994, in fact – when the World Cup was free-to-air in the UAE.
In 2010, getting hooked up before the World Cup in South Africa was nothing short of a national ordeal. As the Bafana Bafana entered the grounds, many fans here were still not plugged into the matrix.
Ismail Dawwas, a marketing and communications executive living in Abu Dhabi, did not get his eLife package connected until four days into the tournament.
"I filled out the application in plenty of time, but because of technical error in the provider's system I was not connected," said Dawwas, who lives in Raha Gardens.
"I had to watch the first few matches at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club nearby." If bureaucracy does not get you, fate will. The opening match of the tournament, South Africa against Mexico, suffered many disruptions because of what Al Jazeera at the time believed was sabotage.
But football fans are not renown for their patience, and this did not help.
Four years on, it seems neither side has changed much.
Certainly, it is fair to expect the viewers to make their decisions as soon as the World Cup packages are rolled out.
Yet, depending on location and the service provider, you may not have much of a choice, like residents of Emaar properties in Dubai who are tied to Du contracts.
In fairness, when the sales call came over a month ago, it was relatively painless.
Are you interested in watching the World Cup? "Yes," I replied.
"That will be 440 dirhams, sir." "Do I have any other options?" I asked. Rhetorically, of course.
"No," came the straight answer, just the same.
"Sign me up then." Not everyone is that lucky, or accepted their lot that meekly.
Etisalat customers had to cough up Dh450, but delays in the rolling out of packages mean many are concerned they will not be connected by Thursday.
Others simply do not see why they must pay an additional fee for a service they believe they have already paid for.
The beIN Sports channels broadcast the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A and the Champions League during the regular season. Most customers figure the five World Cup channels could easily be incorporated into the existing package.
It is a nice but naive thought, for obvious economic reasons.
Of course, there are those across the Emirates who do not subscribe to either of the national service providers.
Isaam Khoury, another Abu Dhabi resident, has two subscriptions, with two receivers – one for OSN, the other beIN – and said he paid Dh1,070 to get the World Cup package on beIN and a year's subscription of the beIN channels. Such deals can be found at many independent electronic shops across the Emirates. Al Wardi Electronic Appliance Trading Shop, located on Electra Road in Abu Dhabi, is one.
The shop owners have braced themselves for a spike in demand for this World Cup.
"There has been a lot more business, of course," one of the sales assistants said.
"But there is no danger of running out of receivers, and we install on the same day." Those with a Humax receiver, like Khoury, could upgrade their package over the phone. Others can buy a new decoder, with the appropriate card, for Dh1,200.
Still, many disconnected fans are reluctant to pay significant amounts for a service they will use four weeks – and perhaps not at all for the following 11 months. This leaves the option of watching the matches at hundreds of coffee shops, restaurants and bars.
That raises the issue of the timing of the matches, with kick offs at 8pm, 11pm, 2am and, for one match only (Ivory Coast v Japan), 5am. Many outlets will cater to these roving World Cup fans.
Al Hakawati Cafe & Restaurants, one of Dubai's best-known chains, confirmed their branches at Green Community Village and Mirdiff will remain open for the duration of all matches.
Others will follow suit, staying open till at least 4am, even before the start of Ramadan.
If you have just realised that you would rather not stay out that late, then I am afraid it is too late.
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