Global stars inspire Qatar’s next generation
Originally published on 30/12/13
Bart Cahir, President and General Manager of ExxonMobil Qatar Inc, said that when the company had originally become involved with the Qatar Tennis Federation and the tournament, it had been with the aim of fostering business relations in a developing region. Now, however, with the region’s sporting credentials firmly on the map and with Qatar hosting football's 2022 World Cup, the sponsor is looking at how it can benefit communities. “That’s really recognising how sports can be an inspiration for youth and for children”, Cahir said.
For the fourth year running ExxonMobil supported a Youth Nationals tournament in cooperation with the Qatar Tennis Federation. Held from October 28 – 30, the tournament included 78 Qatari boys and girls of various ages. “Naturally there is a hope that one day we may see a Qatari champion,” Cahir said`.
With a population of around two million, the majority of whom are immigrants from countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines, that will not be an easy task. In 1980 the population of Qatar was only 200,000. The population may have grown rapidly, but tennis competes with other sports for the nation’s attention.
At a spectator level, the ATP 250 World Tour event, which kicked off on December 30 and features five of the world’s top 10 players, has the capacity to inspire the country.
“In health and wellness, which is now important here as you have lots of opportunities, we want to make sure people are making the right lifestyle choices for health and wellbeing for the long term” Cahir said. “We are also interested in using the tournament as a platform to recognise some of the other community organizations that we work collectively with in the area of corporate social responsibility.” This year, for example, a cheque will be presented to an organisation that works with orphans in the region.
The tournament has played an important part in putting the Middle East on the tennis map. As Alison Lee, ATP International Executive Vice President, commented: “As the first professional men’s tennis tournament in the region, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open paved the way for other tennis events to flourish in the Middle East and has contributed to the rising popularity of men’s professional tennis in these countries.”
Tournament Director Karim Alami has been instrumental in the success of the tournament. A former player who reached No.25 in the world rankings in 2000, the Moroccan has a close relationship with the players. He went to the airport to meet Rafael Nadal when the Spaniard arrived in Qatar.
Commenting on some of the recent developments around the tournament, Alami said, “Center Court now accommodates 7000 spectators and in 2008 we added new stands, VIP boxes, lower and middle seating and added the VIP Village, Public Village and Food Court. We now also have four show courts and 20 outside courts.”
Alami also sees the vital part that the tournament plays in encouraging youngsters to play tennis. “A tournament like this definitely inspires people to play," he said. "The interest in this event is astounding and tickets sold out in advance. Having top players come and play in our backyard gives incentive and motivation to young players, and there is great enthusiasm after this event finishes for young players to come and play on the same court as the pros.”
There are two Qatari players with an ATP world ranking: Jassem Al Zeyara (ranked No 1985) and Zayed Mousa (No 2129). Mousa is Andy Murray’s first-round opponent.
Alami says there are some promising players in the country. “We have some great players on our national team and they have been having success in many of the international events hosted by the Qatar Tennis Federation. There are so many factors involved to determine how well these players will progress, but they are very promising.”