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A Touchdown For Tolerance

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Sports have always had a way of bringing people together. In a unique event hosted by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), in partnership with Global Village, sports from over 50 countries were celebrated.

The UAE National Sports Day saw over 1,800 students come together to play sports from their countries, and celebrate tolerance and unity.

“Every year when we have the National Sports Day, we try to send a message,” said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of KHDA. “This year, because of the Year of Tolerance, we picked to host it at Global Village. We encouraged schools from different countries to practice their own sports. What we hope is to see the schools demonstrate, share, and introduce their own sport to other nationalities. And based off that, we are trying to create friendships and bonds, not because they are students, but because of the common factor that they all want to play sports.”

The event kicked off from the Global Village Cultural Gate, with a student band welcoming students and teachers to the activities. A special ‘Zayed Torch’ honoured UAE’s Founding Father, as students paraded across different pavilions and took part in games like Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Hula Hoops, Tug of War, and Haft Sang.

Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council said, “These initiatives are important in our effort to promote active living and we want to spread positivity and happiness. Such events motivate people to come together and enjoy with each other as we collaborate, experience, and appreciate new activities around Dubai.”

Although celebration was the focus, there was a sense of healthy competition between the schools.

“Through sports we come together and we celebrate. Yes there is competition, but there is also positive energy and vibes. So we use this year’s day to bring that up to surface. We can do so much together if we understand each other’s sports – not only language, religion, and cuisine.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam is the Director General of KHDA

Teachers and students all stressed the important message that events like this can share.

Edgar Adriano, P.E. Teacher, The City School International Dubai, said, “Today’s event is so important because sport activities make students happy, healthy, and gives peace of mind. Parents should be supportive of children’s physical education. Tolerance is teaching students that they can all co-exist peacefully, especially in sports.”

Shajaat Hussain, Science Teacher, Pakistan Education Academy: “This event is an important opportunity for students. We don’t want to confine them to books. These activities help their nourishment and brain development.”

Kritika Dhakan, student (17), The International School of Choueifat, Dubai: “We tried Kung Fu and Yoga, they were really fun new experiences. Tolerance to me is being able to accept everyone’s differences. We should all unite together despite our differences; we can’t all be the same or we’d be robots.”

Master Hang Zang, Shaolin Kung Fu Training Club, shared how the sport he teaches begins with a show of respect for your opponent. “In Kung Fu, we bow to our opponent first. Bowing is a symbol of tolerance. This is respect, self-defence, not for mistreating, we learn and teach respect. Kids are the future. An event like this allows for students to branch out and try sports they’ve never been introduced to before, and learn the values each sport teaches,” he said.

Jan Celestine Azurin, student (10), The Philippine School Dubai: “We’re called a Drum and Lyre Corps march. We’re here to represent our school and our country. We have flaglets, they’re the ones who hold the flags, drummers, majorettes who use batons, and lyres.”

Gurjot Kaur, student (16), New Indian Model School, Dubai: “Tolerance is all about spreading peace through unity.”

Mohammad Zaid Harris, student (14), The City School International Dubai: “We’ve formed a team to play cricket today, representing India. Everyone got a chance to play and show their talents. To me, tolerance is simply patience toward others.”

Shajaat Hussain, Science Teacher, Pakistan Education Academy: “Of the activities educators enforce at my school, teaching patience is a great focus. We have placed boxes around the school, soo that if someone is harsh or angry with you, you don’t react, instead put those feelings in a note and into the box. We then gather and analyse what is going on and how it can be improved on.”

Hafsath, Sports Teacher, New Indian Model School, Dubai: “Mental and physical health in sports is very important. UAE National Sports Day has helped our students to meet other people from different countries; this goes to say sports has no limits. UAE as a country is the best example of Year of Tolerance.”