The Emirates Golf Club will welcome the world’s best squash players when they host the PSA Dubai World Series Finals in June.
The iconic golf course was announced as the venue by the Professional Squash Association for the end-of-season event from June 5-9.
The agreement means that Emirates Golf Club will become the latest venue in Dubai to showcase the PSA World Series Finals, with the 2016 edition held in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa – while the 2017 instalment saw squash become the first sporting event ever to take place at Dubai Opera.
“During the past three years Dubai has proven to be the perfect destination for the PSA World Series Finals and I am excited to be taking the event back to the Emirate again this June,” said PSA Chairman and A. A. Turki Group of Companies (ATCO) Chairman Ziad Al-Turki.
“Every major sport in the world has a presence in Dubai and I’m delighted that squash continues to be a part of that. We have built a strong association with Dubai and Dubai Sports Council since first bringing the World Series Finals there in 2016 and this year we are excited to be working with Emirates Golf Club to put on another world-class sporting occasion.”
In order to qualify for the PSA World Series Finals, players must finish in the top eight on the World Series Standings, with points on offer at all eight World Series tournaments throughout the 2017/18 season.
Nine players – five men and four women – have already qualified after stellar performances in the first five events.
The top three qualification spots for both men and women are currently taken up by Egyptians.
World No.1 and defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy tops the standings after a blistering campaign to date, which has seen him win three World Series finals.
Fellow Egyptians Ali Farag, Tarek Momen and Marwan Elshorbagy fill second, third and fifth respectively, with Germany’s Simon Rosner sitting in fourth after winning January’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.
2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad, three-time World Champion Nick Matthew and three-time World Series Finals winner Gregory Gaultier currently take up the rest of the spots inside the top eight.
The women’s line-up is led by World No.1 Nour El Sherbini, with Nour El Tayeb in second and world champion Raneem El Welily in third.
France’s Camille Serme, defending champion Laura Massaro, Egypt’s Nouran Gohar and England’s Sarah-Jane Perry complete the top eight on the women’s standings, while two-time winner Nicol David currently sits 15 points behind and has a real fight on her hands to qualify.
The battle for the final qualification places continues this week at the El Gouna International which concludes on April 27, with the final event, the Allam British Open, held from May 15-20.
Tickets for the season-ending PSA World Series Finals will go on sale soon.
The 2017/18 PSA Dubai World Series Finals will be held at the @EmiratesGC between June 5-9!
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) April 23, 2018
Every Friday evening in Dubai’s bustling Deira district, a sandy lot is transformed into the ring of champions. It is kushti wrestling night and Kala Pehlwan is ready to fight.
As the sun sinks below towering palm trees, dozens of men – many in tunics, others in T-shirts – begin to form a perfect circle.
Most are Pakistani or Indian, from the cross-border region of Punjab, where kushti is a beloved pastime. They are also a pillar of the United Arab Emirates’ workforce.
Veteran wrestlers, now referees, pour water over the inner ring to minimise dust.
A peanut vendor drags a rickety cart around the circle, tending to the crowd – now three rows deep.
“Clink, clink, clink,” ring out wooden cymbals with bells.
The wrestlers unabashedly strip down to their underwear, donning yellow, red, or even floral-patterned loincloths.
“Kala Pehlwan, son, come to the ring! Suhail, son, come to the ring,” cries out 50-year-old Mohammed Iqbal – a Dubai kushti fixture.
Glaring, the opponents swipe one another’s bodies with sand – a reciprocal move to counter sweat.
The day’s matches are quick – sometimes under a minute – and hard fought.
A foot is trapped between a rival’s legs, a fighter flips over his opponent’s shoulders to escape his grip. One pins his match down on his stomach and throws sand in his face before getting restrained by the referees.
Spectators dart into the ring to film fights. Others watch in rapture, breaking out in cheers at decisive moments in the match.
The winner is declared when a fighter manages to pin his opponent to the ground on his back.
If the fight starts going over 20 minutes, the referees declare a tie.
On this evening, Kala Pehlwan finds himself overpowered – and faced with a challenge.
“Find me a fighter that can beat me,” his opponent taunts.
Kala Pehlwan, 26, huddled with friends and came up with a plan. They would find a challenger — not from Dubai, but from their hometown of Muzaffargarh in the Punjab region of Pakistan.
Within days, they had gathered the money, throwing in 50-100 Dirhams (roughly $15-25, 12-20 euros) each to pay for a plane ticket.
“I can’t meet you tonight I’m going to the airport,” Kala Pehlwan tells AFP one Monday evening.
Two days later, AFP met Kala Pehlwan at his workplace, Dubai’s gleaming Waterfront Market.
Row upon row of ice-topped stalls are laden with fresh fish from Oman, Sri Lanka and beyond – a testament to the shipping hub that is Dubai.
The stalls bear the names of Emirati owners, but South Asians are the face of the market.
“We have connections from Pakistan at the fish market,” says Kala Pehlwan. This is where he learned about the kushti matches when he arrived in Dubai six years ago.
The brawny fighter enters the delivery area, crossing paths with his mentor, Mohammed Iqbal, who is pushing a cart of fish.
“When I enter the market everyone is excited. They recognise me and know my name. And if there is any problem, they come to help me because I’m famous,” Kala Pehlwan grins.
That evening, Mohammed Shahzad – the challenger from Muzaffargarh – tags along.
Dressed in a crisp, blue tunic, Shahzad, 22, says he didn’t hesitate when he received Kala Pehlwan’s call.
“The other fighter beat my friend and challenged him to find someone who can knock him out… so I came to Dubai,” he grinned.
No kushti, no life
Kala Pehlwan says kushti is a way of life back in Muzaffargarh.
“In our town, it’s a tradition to learn wrestling. Everybody grows up on kushti. They do not have bad habits like cigarettes or drugs. Everyone is trying to be fit for a fight.”
Kala Pehlwan – whose real name is Mohammed Arsalan – took his nom de guerre from a hometown legend who shares his fighting style.
He says a proper diet, coach and training are key to success. Eating right is his biggest challenge in an expensive metropolis.
Here, the fish market has some benefits.
“Fish is my favourite dish. It is the healthiest food because in Dubai, most things are coming in frozen form but fish is fresh. Every other day I am eating a fish from the market. We are getting free fish from our employer at the end of the day,” Kala Pehlwan says, returning to stack crates.
For Kala Pehlwan and many of his friends, Dubai is a temporary stage in life — a place to save cash before returning home.
They work hard and sleep in shifts.
AFP obtained permission to film at the men’s residence but was unable to because it would have disrupted the group’s sleeping patterns.
“We all have our jobs here. Some are porters, some work in the fish market,” Iqbal says ahead of a Friday match.
But kushti, he adds, “is our tradition. It’s where we come to de-stress.”
‘Better than fighting in anger’
Iqbal wrestled for more than two decades in Dubai before passing the torch to the next generation, whom he takes the time to train each evening before work.
“It’s not hard to get a space for these fights because in Dubai they always want entertainment and encourage us.
“The (authorities) say arranging fights like this is better than fighting in anger where you live or at your workplace,” said Iqbal.
Kala Pehlwan says he can earn 500-600 Dirhams ($135-$165) on a good night – the money collected in a plastic bag by the referee and champion – but kushti is not about money.
“We can’t enjoy life, we can’t have a good time if we don’t have wrestling in Dubai,” he said.
When Friday night comes around again, it’s the visiting challenger Shahzad who wins.
Provided by AFP Sport
With video gaming events gaining in popularity the world over, Dubai is set to get its very own dedicated esports stadium which will be a first for the UAE.
Named the Dubai X-Stadium, the project has been jointly initiated by Dubai Media Office and TECOM Group. Once complete, the esports stadium will establish Dubai as a regional and global hub for hosting video gaming events.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the board of trustees of Dubai Future Foundation has endorsed the project under the Dubai 10X initiative.
“We are living in a world where digital culture is reshaping all aspects of life, including sports. This has led us to develop the concept of Dubai X-Stadium, which will consolidate Dubai’s status as a key digital economy hub,” Mona Ghanem Al Marri, director general of the Dubai Media Office said.
#Dubai X-Stadium will establish Dubai as a premier destination for digital video gaming competitions through the joint project between @DXBMediaOffice and @TECOMGroupDubai#Dubai10X @Dubai10X
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) April 15, 2018
“The idea aims at attracting millions of esports gamers, spectators and enthusiasts from around the world and offering them unique on-line and in-person experiences,” she added.
The global video gaming industry is currently valued at $99.6 billion with revenues estimated to cross the $1.5 billion mark by 2020. As such, the Dubai X-Stadium is poised to play a vital role in this segment upon completion.
Esport events provide the perfect confluence of the media, gaming and event industries and are a huge hit among the younger demographics the world over.
“TECOM Group, a member of Dubai Holding, is proud to take part in conceptualizing the Dubai X-Stadium, where we seek to attract and harness the creativity, talent and innovation of young generations, which is largely in line with our strategic vision in TECOM Group,” said Malek Al Malek, CEO of the TECOM Group.