Qatar is fast becoming the sporting hub of the Middle East. Since 2012, Qatar dedicated a day for Qatar National Sports Day, which is held annually on the second Tuesday in February, promoting a healthy lifestyle and inspiring athletes to push boundaries. The country is continuously encouraging its citizens and residents to take up sports activities to foster fitness and healthy habits.
While Qatari men are at the forefront in sports, Qatari women are not far behind. With adequate support from the country, today, many Qatari women are taking up sports that were earlier considered to be the domain of men.
“Yasmian Alsharshani has the distinction of being Qatar’s first female golfer and the first woman in the Qatar National Golf Team”
Yasmian Alsharshani has the distinction of being Qatar’s first female golfer and the first woman in the Qatar National Golf Team. Yasmian is not just an athlete but also a pioneer for the game of golf and all female athletes in the Middle East. She comes from a family of dedicated athletes. Her father was a swimmer and jockey, her brother is a competitive drag racer, her sister, Reem Alsharshani, is a Qatari skeet-shooting champion and she has nephews in the National Team Gymnastics for young Qataris and Junior National Golf team.
In 2013, Yasmian founded the Qatar Golf Ladies (QGL), the first women’s center for golf in Qatar and the Middle East. The organization pursues community engagement through cultural and educational activities, and includes social, health and recreational elements for women and children. Months after launching QGL, Yasmian was awarded the 2013 Businesswoman of the Year award at the fourth annual Qatar International Businesswomen Forum.
BQ Plus spoke to the talented young athlete about her aspirations and love for the sport and her hopes for it.
How did you get an interest in sports?
“I come from a sports-loving family, all thanks to my mother, who has always been very encouraging towards us children”
I have always enjoyed all forms of sports. I come from a sports-loving family, all thanks to my mother, who has always been very encouraging towards us children. We are a big family of 19 siblings from two mothers. Even my sister, Reem, is an athlete; she is a champion skeet shooter. I also have nieces and nephews who excel in gymnastics and tennis. Some are in the junior tennis team and others in the junior golf national team.
When did you first start playing golf?
I started playing golf at the age of 11. I had traveled to Egypt with my family where my father’s friends invited us for lunch at an Egyptian golf club. That is where I discovered the world of golf and that was a life-changing experience for me as I fell in love with the sport immediately. After that, whenever we would travel, my mother would look for golf clubs near where we stayed and would take me there to play. Now in Qatar, I train at the Doha Golf Club.
How did you get on the Qatar National Golf team?
I actually approached the team when they were playing at the Doha Golf Club. They are an excellent team and encouraged me a lot and offered me training and different venues to train. I joined the Qatar National Golf team in 2009; I was the only Qatari woman on the team. In this regard, I would really like to thank Hassan Al Naimi and Fahad Al Naimi for their support of the team members and for encouraging us. They play a big role in my journey in the field of golf.
Why do you think more Arab women aren’t getting involved in golf?
“It is not just women; even Arab men don’t take much interest in the sport, especially in the Gulf. But it is slowly changing and we hope that we will see a much bigger change in the near future.”
Golf is not widespread in the Arab world except in a few Arab countries. Its history began in Britain where it was considered a sport for the rich. Even now, it is more widespread in Europe and America; however, Asia is now beginning to take an interest in the sport, especially Korea. It is not just women; even Arab men don’t take much interest in the sport, especially in the Gulf. But it is slowly changing and we hope that we will see a much bigger change in the near future.
What is your opinion about women in sports in Qatar?
The presence of women in sports in Qatar has majorly developed from past years. Even the presence of sports in general, in all fields and departments, has greatly developed. This is considered to be the golden age for Arab women as there is more awareness and interest in sports among women.
Another development is that now women have started to think of sports as a career option. They are getting more ambitious and are improving their education in sports. It is a profession treated with a lot of respect. Now, the Qatari community has pride in women who choose sports.
This is thanks to the State of Qatar and HH Sheikha Mozah, who has encouraged and supported women in all fields especially education and sports. Education helps in creating an aware and thoughtful society.
What are the various initiatives that you have undertaken to promote golf in Qatar?
I established a campaign called ‘Mini Golf For All’. The idea of this campaign is to create awareness and educate people of all ages in the community about Golf. It was a social sports campaign that also aimed at creating a line of communication between disabled athletes and Golf athletes.
In 2009, the campaign took off with the joint cooperation between the disabled athletes association, Qatar Golf Club and other associations. An event was held in Katara to promote the campaign, which was a huge success. I have also participated in many local and international conferences representing women athletes and have also been a part of a global sports mentoring program.
Tell us about your master’s degree from the International Olympic Academy in Greece.
I’m the first Qatari to receive a Master’s degree in Olympic Management from the International Olympic Academy in Greece. The course was in English and lasted about a year and a half. I graduated in 2016. It was an amazing experience for me as I met students from all over the world. There were 22 students in my batch and I learned a lot from them and their different cultures. It was a cultural exchange experience actually as I also educated them about Qatar, who we are, our culture, current developments etc. I am very passionate about sports and wanted to pursue an education in the field.
The Olympics is one of the biggest sporting events in the world that was established in Greece and so I wanted to learn from there itself. With Qatar getting ready to host the FIFA World cup in 2022, I thought an education in sports management would help me serve at the World Cup.
“I want to set an example to female athletes from around the world and to make the next generation of children understand the importance of sports and encourage them to participate in sports.”
What are your future plans?
My ambition is to represent Qatar internationally and to raise the bar of Qatari athletes in international competitions. I want to set an example to female athletes from around the world and to make the next generation of children understand the importance of sports and encourage them to participate in sports.
This article is from BQ Plus’s Issue 8 – February 2017.
© 2017 BQ Plus ALL RIGHTS RESERVED