Al Sadd fans celebrating their team 2-1 win in Qatar Cup final over El Jaish at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Wadad Hachichou)
by Tracy Kwaleh Atumkeze, AIPS Young Reporter, Cameroon
DOHA, May 1, 2017 - As the Qatari football fans stream into the stadium to watch the 67th edition of the Qatar Cup final, one could not help but notice that the crowd was predominantly made up of men and boys. The presence of women was obviously absent as the few that could be spotted in the stands were from western countries.
“You don’t see a lot of Qatari women in the stadiums; this explains the cultural values in Qatar”, says Amina Bovamau, a Qatari based journalist working for Qatar Radio, right after the game.
In an attempt to justify the virtually non-existent female attendance in sporting events, a senior sports writer of DohaStadium media, N Ganesh, shows another angle: "With the cultural sensitivity of the region, there are not enough family areas at the stadiums. Women are not allowed to mingle, so they need special slots to watch football matches", he says to AIPS.
However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Qatari women. In a more connected world and with Qatar gradually becoming a sports hub, optimism towards women’s presence is palpable.
Three months ago, the Qatari Women's Sports Committee has recently organised events like the Gulf Cooperation Council, a women’s football match that attracted a lot of female presence in the stands.
"This is a new country and the promotion of women’s football is happening. They are very passionate about the game but are still obliged to follow the game on TV screens. With the global evolution and development of women’s football, especially within the Asian continent, Qatari remain optimistic that a wind of change might one day blow across the Qatari culture to make it more welcoming to women, not only in the stadia, but actually participating in the game of football”, Ganesh concluded.
Recent improvements, like the presence of women in regular tennis events, suggest that stadiums full of men might soon be an image from the past.
Mariam Farid during the Doha 2017 Diamond League’s press conference at Qatar Olympic Committee Tower in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Lily Lee)
by Lily Lee, AIPS Young Reporter, Hong Kong
DOHA, May 1, 2017 - As a rising athletics star of Qatar, Mariam Farid is more than a Qatari athlete – she is becoming one iconic figure for Qatari women.
On the upcoming Doha 2017 Diamond League, the 19-year-old sprinter will be competing in the 100m and 4x100m relay.
“I feel excited and I cannot wait to show the world the power of Qatari woman. I believe that I will have a great performance in Doha in front of my home crowd. This is one of the ways to prove that Qatari women can play sports and we are able to compete with others,” she exclusively told AIPS.
“We are aiming to go worldwide. We want to show them that we can be strong and powerful. The Qatari women are able to train and to complete in everything,” she added.
Mariam is hoping to change the people’s perception of women’s sport across the Middle East. As a Muslim girl, Mariam wants to send a message: “I just want to show the world that wearing the hijab does not mean that the girls cannot do sport and compete internationally. We do exist as athletes and we are able to train and compete with others,” she underlined.
“We are women. We do exist as Qatari women. We are able to compete in international leagues like other people do. So, we are hoping to change the view and perception of people looking to us.”
Student and athlete
A full-time student at Northwestern University in Doha, where she is studying Communications, Mariam has a two-hour training session every day, except for Fridays. She feels grateful for the support from both her university and the Qatar Olympic Committee, which allowed her to make a balance between athletics and academic life.
“Whenever I have an important competition, my university always supports me, and whenever I have exams I have the support of the Olympic Committee,” she explained.
Mariam thinks her mission goes beyond sporting results, as she knows her presence in the Diamond League is an inspiration for girls across the region.
“I want to change and improve women’s sport and I want to make Qatar proud. I am here to inspire the younger generations to believe in themselves and to compete in the world stage.”
As any other athlete, Mariam’s dream is to be the best of the world one day.
“Of course I would like to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. What I do is to train very hard every day, because I want to achieve my goals,” the 19-year-old admitted.
But as the role model she is, her biggest accomplishment can be to turn a new generation of women into sports, a priceless medal for Qatar’s future.
Elaine Thompson of Jamaica reacts as she wins the gold medal in the Women's 200m Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
by Jordan Forte, AIPS Young Reporter, Jamaica
DOHA, May 1, 2017 - With eight-time Olympic champion and world’s fastest man Usain Bolt not in the lineup, Olympic double sprint gold medalist Elaine Thompson will lead Jamaica’s hopes into The Doha Diamond League next Friday.
Thompson and Dafne Schippers will resume what is fast becoming one of the fiercest rivalries in world sprinting, when they clash over 200 meters. They met twice in the Diamond League over the half lap event last year, with Schippers getting the win on both occasions.
The Dutch athlete had also beaten Thompson in 2015 at the World Championships in Beijing, clocking the 4th fastest 200 metre time in history of 21.63 seconds.
However, Thompson got the ultimate prize, defeating Schippers to win gold at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Thompson has already shown great form this season, including clocking a slightly wind aided 10.75 seconds in Kingston in April, following up on her personal best 60 meters’ indoor performance of 6.98 seconds in February.
Former world’s fastest man Asafa Powell will also be in action but he will have tough competition as he is expected to face a pair of Olympic double silver medalists in Justin Gatlin from the United States and Andre De Grasse from Canada.
Olympian Femi Ogunode of Qatar is also expected to be in the lineup along with 2003 world champion, 41-year-old Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis.
Another Jamaican Olympian, Megan Simmonds, is also expected to be in action in the women’s sprint hurdles.
Simmonds, who got to the semifinal also of the Olympic Games in Rio last year has a personal best of 12.79 seconds and has already run 12.83 in Kingston in April this year.