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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.

 

Tough competitors

 

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.

Thomas Bach,President of the International Olympic Committees (IOC) (L) and Intendant General Lassana Palenfo, President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) (R) smiles during meeting of the African National Olympic Committees on November 6, 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)

DJIBOUTI, May 2, 2017 - The presidency of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa is up for grabs but the position can only be occupied by one the two top contenders from May 10 at the end of the elective congress.

 

The elections are scheduled to hold in Djibouti during the17th Ordinary General Assembly from May 9 to May 11.

 

It is an elective session, during which all 54 NOCs of the Continent will elect the leaders of the supreme governing body of the African Olympic Movement for the 2017-2020 quadrennial.

 

The two hot contenders are the incumbent, Ivorian Lassana Palenfo and Cameroonian Hamad Kalkaba Malboum.

 

Both are not new as they have travelled through the route twice previously in 2005 in Abuja and Cote d’Ivoire in 2009.

 

On both occasions, Palenfo had always prevailed and the third meeting can be anybody’s game depending on how the member nations of the 54 countries that make of the Olympic family in Africa decide the vote.

 

The two gladiators have some things in common – they have military background and both are grounded in sports and local and continental levels.

 

While Palenfo is current ANOCA president, he holds the presidency of the the Ivorian Olympic Committee as well as the continental leadership of the Africa Judo Federation.

 

Kalkaba on the other hand is current president of the Africa Athletic Confederation (AAC) and current president of the Cameroon Olympic Committee.

 

The two candidates are presented here:

 

Intendant General Palenfo

 

 

 

Lassana Palenfo, born on January 25, 1941 in Ivory Coast was an Ivorian military general.

 

He has actually different functions in several international sports organisations.

 

He is the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa since 2005, member of the International Olympic Committee since 2000, President, National Olympic Committee of Cote d’Ivoire since 1999.

 

President African Judo Union since 1990, vice-president of the International Judo Federation since 1990.

 

He has been awarded the Olympic Order in Silver in 2012.

 

Palenfo practiced multiple sports — swimming, judo (black belt, 4th dan) and football (schools championships).

 

In July 2013, during the elective General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, he was re-elected for a 3rd mandate in a row as the ANOCA.

 

Palenfo graduated from several schools in Paris, including the National College of Financial Administration, the Paris Institute of Administration and Management and the Paris School of Social Sciences.

 

He later followed up with a military course in the Inter-Armies military schools of Coëtquidan and Saint Maixent and after these studies, Palenfo started two different careers: a military one and sporting administration one.

 

Sports administration career

 

Member of the Cote I’ Ivoire Judo and Assimilated Disciplines Federation (in 1966) then President (from 1972 to 1991)

 

He was a member of the SOA (judo, boxing and football) (from 1966 to 1983), Vice-President (from 1974 to 1978) and Treasurer (from 1982 to 1990) then President (since 1990) of the African Judo Union.

 

Palenfo is currently Vice-President, International Judo Federation (IJF) – (since 1990), Vice-President (from 1990 to 1999) then President (since 1999) of the National Olympic Committee of Cote d’Ivoire; President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa Development and Games Commission (since 2002)

 

Member of the International Olympic Committee from 2000 to 2012; Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee since 2012

 

Member of the following Commissions: Women and Sport (since 2002), Olympic Solidarity (since 2006) and International Relations (since 2008)

 

Hamad Kalkaba Malboum

 

Hamad Kalkaba Malboum was born Nov. 11 1950. He is a Cameroonian athletics official, who is the current President of the Africa Athletics Confederation (AAC).

 

Malboum has been at the helm since 2003, when he replaced Lamine Diack who became President of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).

 

He was born in Kawadji near Kousseri, a town in Cameroon bordering the Republic of Chad. He started his primary education in Kousseri.

 

After four years in Maroua, he graduated and started high school in Garoua.

 

He was drafted to join the army in 1969. In 1972, he graduated from the military school in Yaoundé in 1972 and became an officer.

 

He attended police school from 1972 to 1973, and officer’s school from 1987 to 1988.

 

Throughout his education he was interested in sports and music, and played handball and athletics.

 

He finished his army service as a senior army officer, but remained involved in the armed forces as a sports official.

 

Sports career

From 1970 to 1974 he was a member of Cameroon’s 4 × 100 metres relay team and also competed in the 100 metres, 200 metres and long jump.

 

He was highly influential in developing national sports federations in Cameroon, founding the country’s baseball and softball federations in 1992 and leading the handball and athletics bodies.

 

From 1976–1983, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Sports Office and headed the International Military Sports Council (CISM) from 2010 to 2014.

 

He also served from 1996 to the present as founder and organiser of the “Espoir’’ Race (ascension of Mont Cameroon).

 

From 2001 to the present he has been head of the National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSC) and from 2003 to the present, head of the AAC.

 

Following the exit of Senegal’s Lamine Diack as IAAF president, Malboum became the most influential athletic administrator in Africa.

 

Though Africa did not present a candidate to replace Diack, the continent remained an important element to the sport’s governance given the success of its athletes. 

 

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