Roller Derby is something different. I have been very curious as I have never watched Roller Derby before – unless you count the 111 mins I spent watching Whip It ages ago. I have been following on Facebook for a while now. We have a few ladies that attend our RHWAD events that are part of the team (without calling out names – I did not see you on Friday!) Now after seeing roller derby live, I have a whole new respect for these ladies and this sport.
Upon entering the Du Forum we were asked to sign in. Since we had 2 of our kids with us, we were given the warning that children should sit in the second row – incase there are any crashes. I should have left the kids at home (next time I will for sure). Having no idea what to expect or how the game is played, I asked what the rules were. I was given a homemade flyer that explains all the rules of the game. After 5 minutes of entering the Du Forum with cranky kids, I was glad I came just to hear the music that was playing as the ladies were warming up – well done DJ – it was a refreshing mix of ska, rock and punk – music I haven’t really heard since my college days and definitely not heard played in a public venue in Abu Dhabi.
A selection of mix matched wooden benches outlining a big empty circle in the hall made for the seating. What looked like electrical tape lined the edges of the circle on the floor creating the boundaries for the roller derby. The another outside boundary which let the spectators know not to cross was lined in chalk. A row of about 6 or 7 stackable chairs (probably pulled out of storage a few hours before) lined up side by side created the team area. A few feet away was the same line up for the other team.
There were not a lot of people there, but enough. I wasn’t expecting it to be a full house. I knew that most of the audience were probably friends and family of the skaters. It was easy to point out who the media were by the big cameras they were holding. As it turned out, where I decided to sit was one of the better places for pictures. We were always having someone moving in front of us to snap some pictures. Despite the lack of attendees, the sense of excitement was evident.
I initially came to support Abu Dhabi but I could not tell which team was which – except black and white. (I found out later that the teams mixed it up for the first bout). The uniform seemed to be black or white bring-your-own t-shirt. Names and numbers were written on the back (some with marker or tape). The short sleeves were taped up around the neckline turning the t-shirt into a tank top. Everyone had something unique about them. It could have been the way their t-shirt was cut, how they wore their makeup, bright lipstick or colourful leggings under their short shorts or the pattern of their knee high socks – All padded up helmets, knee and elbow pads – everyone just looked cool and hard core.
The MC gets on the mic – “Let’s begin the team introductions.” The Black team gets out on the rink and starts skating around together in a pack. “On the Black team – She’s mean, she lean, she’s the blocking queen – give it up for Bruiser!” When the skater’s name is called, she moves forward apart from the pack and does something special. It may just be a hand in the air, a quick twirl or skating backward. The inflection in the MC’s voice set the tone for the event – it created a buzz and added authenticity – especially for us newbies. She continued through each team with quirky introduction for each skater. Nerd Badger, Skittles, Chewbecca – everyone has a skate name. Before the bout began, a demonstration and quick explanation of the game was given. The team is comprised of blockers and jammers. Each team has one jammer that has to make their way through the blockers to score points. Each jam is 2 minutes long.
Then the jams begin. Ok, as I mentioned before, this was my first time watching roller derby. Despite the demonstration, I wasn’t really sure how the score was kept except if the jammer got out first they got a point or a few points. I had the brochure but I didn’t want to take my eyes off of the rink. There were hard falls, elbows, and heated shoves. It doesn’t take long before you sort of understand what it going on. As an audience member you are enthralled. If you take your eyes off for a moment, you could miss the next crash, slip or point. When I looked at other audience members between jams, I noticed no one had their phone out (except maybe to take a quick pic). This was definitely something that everyone was enjoying.
Before long, both my husband and I were completely involved. We turned into spectator commentators:
“Oh, what are you doing?”
“They need to put Olive in. She got through quickly last time,”
“Watch out for Nerd Badger – she’s gonna get you!”
“C’mon Jungle Jana!”
“This little one – she’s good.”
And every time there was a fall, you could hear everyone in the audience just cringe in pain too, “Eeeww,” then clap when the skater got back up on her feet. We were shaking our heads when a foul or penalty was called, cheering when when someone whizzed through the jam easily. It was so entertaining!
My kids were less impressed (“Need Toilet,” “I’m tired,” “He hit me.”) It was late afternoon and my husband and I knew we were pushing our luck with the kids. We had come directly from a birthday party and it had already been a long day for them. “One more jam, then we’ll go,” we both kept telling ourselves and the kids. We were hooked! It was hard to tear ourselves away but we had to at half time. Next time – we leave the kids at home.
This event was amazing. My husband and I were talking about it long after we left the Du Forum. What was so amazing about it? Other than the girls putting their best foot forward, it was so REAL. Something that you would see or attend back at home. Without the banner of corporate sponsorship, everything that was done was because of the commitment of the team and the volunteers. The players are even responsible for the Forum rental. Can you believe that? They were selling T-shirts to raise money – so I had to grab some (plus they’ll make great souvenirs to take home this summer). In the land of 5 star everything, this event was so refreshing. There were no airs and graces, no dress to impress, no networking, no fuss. Only dedication. People gave up their time and expertise to make this event successful. It was captivating and I loved it! Well done to everyone involved. I hope that #UAERollerDerby is here to stay.
If you would like to follow UAE Roller Derby, check out the different teams on social media. Keep an eye out for their next bout. You won’t want to miss it!
Facebook: Abu Dhabi Roller Derby Dubai Roller Derby
Twitter @ADrollerDerby @DXBRollDerby
Intstagram: ADrollerderby, dubairollerderby
Websites: www.abudhabirollerderbyinfo.webs.com, www.dubairollerderby.com
Let us know what you think!