Netball may only be a popular sport in some segments of the globe, but its role in advancing women’s sports in the Middle East is what makes it so valuable to this part of the world.
The strongest indication of netball’s worth, specifically to the UAE, was on full display in this past weekend’s Inter-Gulf Netball Championship, which brought together female athletes numbering in the hundreds for the tournament’s 30th anniversary at The Sevens in Dubai.
The two days of competition featured 27 teams from across the GCC, representing the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, making the event a truly international affair.
Though the competition was fierce, every team and player appeared to enjoy themselves, as well as promote good sportsmanship. It’s no wonder then that the tournament has been running for as long as it has.
“It’s been going for 30 years,” said Becky Manson, captain of cup-winning Dubai A in the competitive bracket. “They started as very much a social thing and then became more competitive.
“Certainly in the last 10 years, it’s been an incredibly competitive event, showing the standard of women’s sport across Dubai. From our perspective, we just want more of it, more women sport. The girls coming through the school are there and that’s the future.”
Manson and her team once again dominated on the court, capturing the title for the third straight year with an 11-6 win over the Abu Dhabi Falcons in the final.
Though Dubai’s goal attack of Kat Chase and goal shooter Helene Smith outscored Abu Dhabi’s Nichola Aiono and Ainsley Clark, respectively, the overarching result was a win for netball in the UAE.
Sarah Gage, chairwoman of Abu Dhabi Netball League, said: “We were pleased to improve on last year’s result and to bring young new talent into the competition. We are excited with the international opportunities that are presenting themselves through the Asia Netball Federation.
“Along with Dubai we are able to offer players overseas experiences to strengthen netball in the Middle East and expose players to the international netball scene.”
The development of netball in the region will continue this coming weekend with the inaugural Youth Inter-Gulf Netball Championship, to be held at The Sevens on Friday, March 11.
What is still missing, however, is a netball association in the UAE, which both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are collaborating on as the next step to establish the sport.
“Dubai Netball League has worked throughout the year to strengthen relationship with Abu Dhabi Netball with a common goal of further enhancing efforts in the creation of the UAE Netball Association,” said Sara Donovan, chair of Dubai Netball League.
“Such a federation will present numerous benefits,” she added.
At 7’1 and weighing in at 147 kgs, Shaquille O’Neal was not just a giant in the flesh on the basketball court but a giant of basketball.
Adjudged College Player of the Year while studying at the Louisiana State University, O’Neal carried that early promise into the NBA to become one of the best centers of the league with his imposing physical presence causing the downfall of many an opponent.
O’Neal, born on this day 44 years ago, played for six teams in his 19-year NBA career, earning four championships and also an Olympic gold in the 1996 Atalanta Games.
He is one of only three players to win NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year (2000).
His tally of 28,596 points ranks 7th all-time in NBA. Since his retirement in 2011, O’Neal who has also cut four rap albums and acted in movies, has become a TV analyst.
1947: Dick Fosbury, American who revolutionised the high jump with his back flip, now known as ‘Fosbury flop’ (69).
1962: Alison Nicholas, English winner of 1997 US Women’s Open and Solheim Cup captain in 2009 and 2011 (54).
1979: Tim Howard, United States’ most capped goalkeeper, and an Everton regular since 2007 (37).
1989: Agnieszka Radwanska, Polish tennis player, Wimbledon runner-up in 2012 and currently World No.3 (27).
He was among the most talented young batsmen at that time and his Test debut was eagerly awaited, which came on this day in Port of Spain against the West Indies.
It turned out to be a memorable game for India as they ended up winning their first ever Test against the West Indies with the 22-year-old Gavaskar scoring 65 and 67 not out.
Many more such deeds were to follow as Gavaskar, blessed with a near-perfect technique and enormous powers of concentration, went on to become one of the world’s greatest opening batsmen.
He scored a record 774 runs at 154.80 in that debut series with four centuries before going on to become the first to log 10,000 runs and 34 hundreds in Tests.
Here are the other memorable sporting stories that happened on this day:
1902: Real Madrid officially founded with Juan Padros as president.
1922: Babe Ruth signs new contract with New York Yankees for three years at $52,000 a year, the then highest ever for a baseball player.
1974: Australia’s Chappell brothers Ian (145 & 121) and Greg (247 & 133) become the first siblings to score centuries in both innings of a Test during a drawn game against New Zealand in Wellington.
1985: Mike Tyson, 18, wins his first pro fight as he KOs Hector Mercedes in 1st round in Albany, New York.