UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians

A player from the UAE takes a shot on goal during their handball match against Oman during the 9th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi on March 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2018
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UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates, slated to become the first Arab country to host the Special Olympics in 2019, is championing an alternative label for those with special needs: “People of Determination.”
Arab athletes used to being called “special needs” were surprised and excited this week to see welcome signs with the new label at the 9th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Games in Abu Dhabi.
The term, seen everywhere from handicapped accessible boardwalks to the Abu Dhabi exhibition center, is one the UAE hopes will catch on beyond its borders.
Matar Saeed Al-Naimi, president of the health committee for the 2018 MENA competition, says the games also offer a venue to educate local society.
Groups of Emirati elementary school age children were a fixture at the MENA games, brought in with their teachers to attend various sports events.
“They are still young and they are the future, so it is very important for the UAE to teach this generation who are the ‘people of determination’ and what they are capable of doing,” Naimi told AFP.
“The goal is a united society,” he said.
On Tuesday, the final day of competitions, a basketball match between Iraq and Syria ended with tears, cheers and finally a group photograph.
“I’m happy, very happy. I don’t know how to describe it,” said Naim Asmar, a member of the victorious Syrian basketball team.
Asked whether he preferred they be labelled as special needs or as people of determination, the athlete responded unequivocally.
“People of determination,” he said over and over.
“It means we have willpower! We might even have more than regular people,” he said pointedly.
The team coach, Yasser Al-Yassine, was also thrilled.
“This term is like a push for them — they understand what it means. It’s very motivating. It says, ‘I am a person of determination, so let’s go! I will do, I will train, I will play. If I can’t play, I’ll at least participate.
“It’s a wonderful concept,” said Yassine, whose team was participating in an international competition for the first time in six years.


Syria’s team coach said his players — three from Damascus, three from Aleppo and two from Homs — face challenges in society even as the country’s war has wound down in their own cities.
The confidence they gain at regional competitions and local games is hard won — and easily lost.
“There’s society, the school, the neighborhood — the streets. So maybe I have them once, twice or three times a week for an hour and a half. All the confidence we built in an hour and a half can be destroyed in five minutes,” said Yassine.
“They need to have each other’s backs.”
While the men’s teams from Syria and Iraq shook hands, women’s teams from Pakistan and Algeria faced off on the opposite court.
Kamilia Nihad Metidji, a 26-year-old volunteer with the Algerian team, said the “people of determination” label had surprised her.
“I was very happy that they call them this because I find that — with this word — there is no difference between us and them; between the healthy and the handicap-,” she said, stopping short to correct the terminology:
“The people of determination,” she continued. “It gives them self-worth; it’s super. It means they don’t have to feel different.”
Metidji said she volunteered with the special needs athletes because she wanted them to “feel like there’s no difference between us.”
“I want to give them courage: to show them they can accomplish something; they can win games, they can win medals — they can do everything we do.”


Bert van Marwijk confirmed as new UAE boss

Updated 20 March 2019
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Bert van Marwijk confirmed as new UAE boss

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach given task of guiding the UAE to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • To be presented to the fans just before the UAE take on the Green Falcons on Thursday.

LONDON: The UAE FA has confirmed that Bert van Marwijk is to be the national side’s new coach.
The former Saudi Arabia manager arrived in Dubai on Wednesday to thrash out terms and has agreed to a deal that sees him potentially stay in the dugout through to the 2023 Asian Cup.
The Dutchman becomes the new UAE coach with the national side in a state of flux. The much-heralded “Golden Generation” failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup and underwhelmed on their way to the Asian Cup semifinals on home soil in January.
He replaces Alberto Zaccheroni whose defensive tactics both failed to find success and inspire the fans. The Italian left the job after the last-four exit at the Asian Cup.
Thanks to his track record with Saudi Arabia Van Marwijk was reportedly the UAE’s first choice to take the side into World Cup qualifying, which starts in September — his first task being to get the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
The 66-year-old guided the Green Falcons to the Russian World Cup — the Saudis’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017 after contractual negotiations broke down.
The UAE face his former side in a friendly on Thursday, with a friendly against Syria set for next Tuesday. Van Marwijk will be in the stands for those matches with interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman in charge of the players on the pitch.
The Dutchman will be presented to the public and media shortly before Thursday’s friendly against the Green Falcons.