Sports fans across Qatar waved goodbye to a fantastic fortnight of free community events this week as the Aspire Zone’s third annual Ramadan Sports Festival came to an end.
Billed beforehand as the “most exciting edition yet”, the 2014 festival lived up to all expectations by encouraging almost 1,000 Doha residents, including 246 female players and 64 junior players to engage in some form of physical activity with its impressive line-up of events and competitions.
Aspire Zone Foundation corporate communications manager Nasser Abdullah al-Hajri said: "The event’s success this year can be explained by a number of different factors. Over the last five months a dedicated 20-strong team of Aspire Zone staff have been working full-time planning the events, doing their best to identify potential sporting activities, creating marketing strategies and organising overall logistical issues."
"Their experience gained over the last two years’ events also brought further benefits for attendees. This year witnessed an increase in specialist sports staff on-hand with basketball, football, table tennis and flag football coaches available to offer expert advice to participants. Meanwhile 44 professional referees were also there at most events to officiate and ensure the games were played fairly and without hindrance," al-Hajri added.
Commenting on the overall success of the festival, Abdulla Al Khater, Acting Events and Venues Manager at AZF, said: “When our team began to plan for this project many months ago we were all determined to make Ramadan 2014 the most successful edition of the festival yet. What I have seen at many of the events over the past fortnight has exceeded our expectations and gone further then we ever could have been hoped.
“With another hugely successful event now behind us, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to its success. I hope that all those who have taken part have been inspired to maintain active and healthy activities and lifestyles into the future.”
Highlights from the two-week extravaganza included 11 different sport competitions including football, volleyball, basketball, and Table Tennis for disabled tournaments. In addition, the Ladies Handball, Flag Football, and Beach Soccer tournaments were held for the first time in Doha. Open to all amateur teams in Doha, these just-for-fun events attracted many hundreds male and female participants from across the local community.
From the local community, Qatari student Sameera Abdulla Al-Abdulla was one of the dozens of female players who took part in the festival’s handball competition. Full of praise for the Aspire Zone, Sameera said: “I feel so lucky to have taken part in the Ramadan Sports Festival and I have had such a fantastic time. There has been a relaxed, family feel to the events this year and the activities have been so well organised. I was sad that my team could not win the competition but I am so happy to say that I have taken part.”
16-year-old Iraqi schoolboy Youssef Salim was amongst the 64 junior athletes who took part in the Ramadan Sports Festival as captain of volleyball side Team Yolo. Having made plenty of new friends during the events, Youssef said he was disappointed to see the festival end: “Everything about the festival this year was just superb and the standard of sport itself was very high. I’ve met lots of new people whilst competing and I have been really impressed by the range of activities on offer to people.”
Meanwhile it wasn’t just fans of more traditional sports that benefitted this year. With the Aspire Zone Federation (AZF) looking to provide events for all members of the community during the Holy Month of fasting, local sports enthusiasts could also take part in a men’s flag football competition, remote-controlled car racing, beach soccer, children’s football matches and a table tennis tournament for disabled athletes that was organized in collaboration with the Paralympic Committee. Also, the ladies tournaments were organized with Qatar Women Sports Committee. This year, Ramadan Sports Festival was sponsored by the Sports Corner.
One of the participants in this latter event was 16-year-old Mohammed Hassan, a schoolboy with hopes of one day representing his country as part of the Qatar Paralympic team. Speaking after the games, Mohammed said: “I really enjoyed taking part in this competition and I have made some really good friends. Events like these can really make you feel like part of the local community and I feel like I have been inspired tonight to keep improving as a disabled athlete.”
During each day of the festival several hundred fans and spectators came along to cheer on the teams and participants, with several key figures from the world of sport also in attendance.
For the American flag football tournament – one of the most popular activities this year – the games were launched by famous NFL player Hussain Abdullah who currently plays for the Kansas City Chiefs. During the competition participants even had the chance to interact with Hussain and hear some of his personal training tips. Another area that staff were able to improve upon in 2014 was the increased use of digital marketing to promote the festival. With all event details put online this year via the recently-launched lifeinaspire.qa website, participants were able to locate all activity details in one convenient location and also use the site to register for any events.
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