They have taken big strides in rugby league within their own circles and there is now another huge boost for rugby league in the United Arab Emirates, as they look set to play host to a 2017 World Cup qualifier.
The venue will be Dubai Sports City, currently the main stadium being used for the UAERL Nissan Cup, which kicked off recently.
The match will be a tense one and winner takes all clash, with South Africa and Lebanon to do battle at the stadium on October 30.
The region, the fans, the sponsors and the stadium are ecstatic to have the chance to host such an important clash.
Maqbul Dudhia, the General Manager of Sports Business at Dubai Sports City Stadium, is delighted to have the chance to showcase a World Cup qualifying match in the area.
â€œDubai Sports City is delighted to welcome rugby league to Dubai,” Dudhia said.
â€œIt is an exciting global sport and will sit well alongside the other major sports that are already played across our venues.
â€œWe believe the presence of rugby league at Dubai Sports City will attract even more people to our Sports Village to take advantage of our world-class facilities and we look forward to the sport going from strength to strength here.â€
The Director of Rugby League for the Middle East and Africa regions, Remond Safi, says everyone is excited about this opportunity in Dubai.
â€œEveryone is very excited about the prospect of bringing a first full international to Dubai and itâ€™s great that the first ever Middle East/Africa World Cup berth will be decided in one of the regionâ€™s most established event hubs,” said Safi.
â€œThere are a lot of opportunities for rugby league in the UAE and the region and I am sure that this will be the first step in a long and fruitful relationship.â€
For the Lebanon rugby league, although it has not been smooth sailing in recent times, they know this is a chance for them to get things back on track.
â€œOver the last three years, the LRLF has had to fight an uphill battle to maintain all its activities,” said Lebanese Rugby League Federation President, Mohamed Habbous.
â€œHowever, with the upcoming World Cup qualifier versus South Africa, we have a chance to take the sport to another level.
â€œBeing on the world stage allows us re-engage with sponsors, fans, and government to firmly position Lebanese rugby league as a staple sport in the country and positive force.â€
The South Africans are also excited at the opportunity to play for a World Cup spot, with South African Rugby League President Kobus Botha acknowledging the hard work they have done over the years.
â€œSouth Africa is excited about this opportunity to participate in rugby leagueâ€™s showcase event,” said Botha.
â€œWe have been hard at work preparing and appointed a dedicated coaching team last year who selected a national training squad, and that team has been together for a period of time now.
â€œThey have played several matches against provincial sides and, in the lead up to the World Cup qualifier, they will also play some international matches to prepare us for facing the traditionally tough Lebanese.â€