Sharjah Ramadan Majlis tackles fanaticism in sports - GulfToday

Sharjah Ramadan Majlis tackles fanaticism in sports

Children from Rawafed Development & Learning Centre enjoy Iftar at Ibn Battuta Mall.

Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent

Dr Ashraf Sobhi, Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sports, called for promoting a genuine spirit of sportsmanship and dealing maturely with opposition in sports in the Arab world.

Speaking at the Sharjah Ramadan Majlis at Al Majaz Amphitheatre on the issue of ‘Sports and Culture of Dealing with Opponents’, the Egyptian minister emphasised that sports are very much like life. “One has to learn to deal maturely with competition and adversity. Most of us see our competitors as opponents, ignoring the fact that it is merely a game and the other side is only taking part in the game just like us,” said Dr Ashraf Sobhi.

Hosted by the Sharjah Press Club of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau, the fifth session of Sharjah Ramadan Majlis was presided over by Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council in the presence of Sheikh Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Sports Council, Sheikh Saud Bin Abdulaziz Al Mualla, Chairman of Sharjah Chess Club and President of the Arab Chess Federation, and a number of sheikhs, dignitaries, officials and sportspersons.

Commenting on the growing phenomenon of fanaticism in Arab sports, the minister said there is a difference between a sports fanatic and a proactive fan. He called for promoting a culture of tolerance and true sportsmanship in the Arab world saying the first thing that we need to teach our children and upcoming sportspersons is the difference between competitors and opponents.

Dr Sobhi pointed out that in developed nations like those in Europe, children and emerging players are given psychological and emotional training about dealing with competition and adversity in sports, as in life, from an early age. This is as much true of sports fans.

“We expect our team to compete and win at any cost. In more developed countries, they teach you to compete for the sake of competition itself. This is the critical difference,” he stressed. This is one of the reasons penalties in sports in the Arab world are too high because we cannot deal with competition and an adverse ruling as we should, he added.

He called on sports clubs, governing bodies, team managements and educational institutions to play their role in creating a positive culture of sports and appreciating sports. He pointed out that the FIFA, the global football body, has constituted a special committee to deal with fanaticism and hooliganism of fans.

Earlier the Minister congratulated the Sharjah leadership and people on the recent success of Sharjah team saying it is a thrilling achievement for Sharjah and the UAE. He described the UAE as a world-class team. Captain Sami Al Jaber, the legendary Saudi footballer and the current adviser to Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, also complimented Sharjah on its remarkable success. Speaking on the issue of fanaticism in sports, Al Jaber said that the spirit of sportsmanship and dealing with competition comes with education and training. “If you grow up with something, you cannot change when you are an adult,” he added.

Al Jaber agreed that sports fanaticism is a huge problem in the Arab world. “We deal very emotively with sports and cannot react maturely to competition. We abandon the famous sportsman spirit,” said the former footballer. He cited his own example saying, “we were never trained and educated about dealing with the competition. This culture can be imbibed only through good upbringing and education. You cannot change at a later stage in life.”

He described fanaticism as the “biggest disease” in sports. “Fanaticism can be on the basis of tribal, religious and national loyalties. In some countries like Egypt, sports fanaticism is a major problem. It can lead to violence in some cases,” warned the former international coach and footballer. He underlined the key role the media can play in creating a positive culture in Arab sports in the region.

Mohamed Juma Bin Hindi, Vice Chairman of Sharjah Sports and Cultural Club, agreed with Al Jaber saying good upbringing is the key to dealing with the problem. He referred to the example of the Emirate of Sharjah which, guided by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, had created organisations such as the Sharjah Ladies Club and Rubu’ Qarn Foundation some 25 years ago to create leaders in all walks of life, including in sports.