Pattana unveiled as new MENA Golf Tour venue in Thailand

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, left, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour, with Pattana Golf Club Executive Vice President Rujirapun Juangroongruangkit and Thomas Topken, managing director of the club.
Updated 23 August 2016

Pattana unveiled as new MENA Golf Tour venue in Thailand

DUBAI: Pattana Golf Club and Resort will make its debut as one of the host venues when the MENA Golf Tour returns to Thailand in 2017 in a clear manifestation of the tour’s rising popularity index in the Far East and beyond.
With Pattana coming on board, the MENA Golf Tour will have a minimum of three tournaments during its second visit to the kingdom in May as Banyan Golf Club and Mountain Creek have already committed to continue their support after successfully hosting the tour events earlier this year.
“We feel proud and privileged to join hands with Pattana. Their support augurs well for the growth of professional golf and further strengthens our resolve to create meaningful playing opportunities for our members to showcase their skills on a global basis,” said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour.
“With an impressive portfolio of world-class courses, Thailand has already established its credentials as one of the most popular golf destinations in the world and the addition of a new MENA Golf Tour event at Pattana will further realize the country’s huge tourism potential.
“The MENA Golf Tour events will provide a great opportunity for the Thai talent to gain valuable World Ranking Points in addition to promoting Golf Citizen, one of the fastest growing online tee time booking engines which has richly-diverse golf courses on its network.
The Pattana management was equally upbeat about welcoming the MENA Golf Tour party to their course.
“We are very excited with our association with the MENA Tour, which, I am confident, will further stimulate the growth of golf. It will be a great opportunity for us to showcase our championship course, which we are proud of,” said Rujirapun Juangroongruangkit, vice president of Pattana Golf Club.
“We look forward to welcoming MENA Golf Tour members and I am confident they will have a memorable experience playing on our course that offers value for money.
“We are motivated to make this one of the most popular event in Thailand and look forward to welcoming fans, players, sponsors and organizers alike to Pattana in May 2017.”
“Hosting international sporting events are in sync with Thailand’s drive to increase in-bound visitor numbers and contributes significantly to the economic growth of our city,” he added.
Located a mere 90 minutes from Bangkok, Pattana Golf Club and Resort boasts a full range of premium accommodations and amenities, meeting and event facilities, championship 27-hole golf course, and 7,000 capacity stadium.
Set up in 2004 by Dr. Somporn Juangroongruangkit in memory of her husband who established the Thai Summit Group, the Pattana layout, highlighted by a mixture of well-placed trees, bunkers and exciting greens, tests every aspect of the game.
Himself a passionate lover of the greens Dr. Pattana Juangroongruangki may have left for the links in the sky, his legacy will continue to live on forever, inspiring a culture of healthy lifestyles at Pattana Golf Club and Resort.
An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Golf Tour was created in 2011 with the aim of developing golf in the region. It is affiliated to R&A, the worldwide golf governing body based in the home of golf, St. Andrews, and the Arab Golf Federation and enjoys the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status.
Multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Hassan II Trophy and the Maybank Championship Malaysia in addition to full playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Asian Tour Q-School for the leading three professionals are some of the added incentives for the MENA Golf Tour members.

Jaka Ihbeisheh’s heartwarming journey from Slovenia to Palestine — via football

Updated 18 November 2018

Jaka Ihbeisheh’s heartwarming journey from Slovenia to Palestine — via football

LONDON: Jaka Ihbeisheh’s eyes glisten as he recalls the moment his father first watched him play for Palestine. While the midfielder’s path to the national team may have been unconventional, those feelings of pride on his debut were wholly natural. From western Yugoslavia to the West Bank, Ihbeisheh’s journey was fueled by a desire to rediscover his roots.
Ihbeisheh was born in Ljubljana in 1986 to a Slovenian mother and a Palestinian father, who met while the latter was studying medicine in Croatia. His parents separated when he was seven years old, however, and his father moved back to Palestine.
It would be 18 years before he saw his father again.
An early love of football developed into a career for Ihbeisheh, who played for a number of Slovenian clubs. But while he lived out his childhood dream professionally, in his personal life there remained a nagging question about the whereabouts of his father.

In 2013, Ihbeisheh finally decided to try to reach out to the man from whom he had been estranged for three quarters of his life.
“After getting married, I started to question more where I was from and what my father had been doing,” Ihbeisheh explained. “We still had an envelope at home with an address on it so I decided to write a letter to him asking him if he wanted to meet me.
“I wrote three letters — in Slovenian, Croatian and English — and to be honest I had no idea if I would receive a reply.”
A month passed by with no response but then one day Ihbeisheh opened his Facebook account to see a friend request from someone whose name was written in Arabic.
“It was a strange moment after all those years but the date of birth matched my father’s so I knew it was him. We started to talk on Skype first, in Croatian. I was amazed he could remember but he said that because he studied medicine in the language he had never forgotten it. He still used Croatian medical textbooks.


Jaka Ihbeisheh in action for Slovenian side Rudar Velenje. (Photo / Twitter: @ihbeisheh)

“After a few calls, my wife and I decided the time was right to go and visit him in Palestine. A lot of people said things like, ‘Don’t go there you are crazy, you will get shot’ — but my father lived there and I wanted to go and visit him. I was not afraid.”
That first trip was fraught with nervous excitement as Ihbeisheh made his way to his father’s homeland via his aunt’s house in Jordan. The midfielder had read and heard about the potential difficulties of the crossing into Palestine and his own passage was not straightforward.
“The security at the border was very heavy and when they asked me where I was going, I said Palestine. He said, ‘No, to Israel’ and I said, ‘No, Palestine’. Then he separated me and my wife and a soldier came and took me into a room to ask a lot of questions.
“They asked about my life, my father, my work, my wife. They went on Wikipedia to check if I really was a Slovenian professional footballer. Then they called my wife inside — they were checking our stories matched. They asked my wife the name of my coach and fortunately she knew it. We were there for five hours in all.”
For Ihbeisheh it was glimpse into the border woes that are a regular part of life for Palestinians, though happier experiences were to come.

“When we got off the bus, my father and all his family were there waiting and it was very emotional. Of course, we had a big meal to celebrate.
“After that trip, I knew that if the opportunity came up I would want to play international football for Palestine. My father didn’t need to say anything for me to know how much it would mean to him.”
When Ihbeisheh returned to Slovenia, the thought of playing for Palestine was still on his mind but he had no idea how to put the wheels in motion. Then a fortuitous meeting with a Palestinian diplomat’s son opened the door. Six months later, Ihbeisheh received a text inviting him to be involved with the squad for the first time.
“My first game was a friendly in Dubai ahead of the 2015 Asian Cup and it was an amazing day. When the national anthem played, I was so proud. You meet the other players and hear their stories, then you understand why it means so much to represent Palestine.
“Since then I have come to play every time they call me. I love being part of this team.”


Jaka Ihbeisheh meeting hero Xavi, and on the sidelines of a Rudar Velenje game. (Photo / Twitter: @ihbeisheh)

Ihbeisheh went on to make a major impact at the Asian Cup in Australia, becoming the first Palestinian player to score at a major international tournament in a 5-1 defeat to Jordan.

But while that was a moment to savour, it paled in comparison to the first game he played in Palestine.
“It is a totally different occasion playing in Palestine. Everyone is supporting their country and they make incredible noise, they want to take pictures with us. We feel like heroes. It’s a shame that our home games are often moved away from our land and our people — I hope this stops.
“My first game there was a 0-0 draw with UAE in (the West Bank town) Al-Ram and of course it was the first time my father saw me play in Palestine. This was an emotional moment for him and for me. He said, ‘I was really proud to see you play but I am proud even when you are not playing. You are always representing your country.’
“The more I am called up to play for Palestine, the more I see him so, for us, football has an important meaning.”
That sentiment is true for many in Palestine, for whom football offers a temporary escape from difficult lives. Palestine may often appear to be a byword for conflict but Ihbeisheh has found the opposite to be true, the country uniting him with both his father and his heritage.
“I feel really sad about some of the things I hear, some of the experience my friends and family have. It is difficult to imagine for people like me who have always lived in Europe. You just hear the things on TV or radio but it is not the same as when my teammates tell me their stories.
“What each of them has gone through, and achieved, to play football for Palestine is inspirational. They know how football can help to give the supporters something, for a little bit of time they forget about all the worries. This is important to them, and me.
“I may not come from Palestine but when we are together as team-mates, there is no difference if you have lived your whole life in Palestine or outside of Palestine. We are all the same, we are family.”