Taekwondo is an up and coming sport in Fujairah with a team of 43 athletes and a dedicated manager in the person of Eid Fairooz Mesmari.
The Rise of Taekwondo
The Korean martial art of taekwondo made its first appearance at the Seoul Olympics (1988) as a demonstration sport, at the Sydney Olympics as an official sport and this year (2010) it was confirmed as one of the 25 ‘core’ sports for the 2016 Olympic Games. Great efforts are now being made to introduce taekwondo to the Paralympics, hopefully by 2016 at the earliest. Taekwondo is now the world’s most popular martial art in terms of the number of practitioners.
Taekwondo in the UAE
The UAE is one of 190 member nations of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), taekwondo’s international governing body. The nation’s standing in the sport was internationally recognized when Sheikha Maitha Mohammad Rashid Al Maktoum, daughter of the Dubai ruler and the prime minister of the UAE, competed in taekwondo at the Beijing Summer Olympics.
Taekwondo in Fujairah
Although Eid Mesmari was the manager of the UAE National Team based in Dubai, he wanted to return to his home town of Fujairah and introduce the sport he loves to his own people. On the first day of 2010 Eid took up the job as manager and instructor of taekwondo in Fujairah.
The Fujairah Instructor
Eid has been a determined person from a young age. As a boy all his friends played football but he said to his Mum, “I want to be different.” He was a good runner so when was eight or nine he pursued athletics.
Leaving school he joined the army in Dubai because he ‘wanted to become a man’ and for him the army embodied the Emirates. In the first few months his athletic prowess was noted by his officers and he was transferred to the Sports Unit where he soon represented the UAE Army and later the UAE National Team in the 400 metres and the 4 x 400 metres relay. This arena gave Eid considerable international experience and in his spare time he learned boxing and taekwondo.
After years of competitive running, Eid narrowed his focus to develop his skills in taekwondo. This took him first to the USA and then to South Korea where he underwent a rigorous training schedule, earned a series of belts (ranks) and participated in international competitions.
When he returned to his homeland he became the champion in his category and he held this honor for many years. He ceased competitive taekwondo in 2006 to concentrate on managing the sport and training young players.
Building a Sport
Eid helped establish a boxing team in Fujairah in 2004 and became involved with its management and training. But his dream persisted to develop taekwondo in Fujairah and since sharing this idea with the Crown Prince, the dream is becoming a reality.
Space for a taekwondo centre was obtained within the basement of Fujairah’s Football Stadium. He started with three young people but now there are 43 athletes in the squad.
Most of the training is done in the evenings, where young men and women of different ages and nationalities attend. Taekwondo is for everybody, it is offered free but each player must put in lots of time to do well and experience the benefits.
While enjoying sport for the joy that sport can be, Eid has a greater vision—helping to build his city of Fujairah in the way that he knows best, through taekwondo. Taekwondo is a tool for building character because it places value on etiquette, self-discipline, respect for others, fair play and friendship with others.
Eid elaborates, “Taekwondo teaches you to be calm and not to get into trouble. It is more than martial arts; it is another culture and a philosophy that integrates the mind (tae), hand (kwon) and do (leg).”
He believes he is making some progress when some parents ask Eid, “What have you done with my child? He’s so calm!”
Taekwondo in Fujairah largely revolves around the inspiration that Eid gives but increasingly the parents of the players are assisting in the administration of the sport.
One does not have to spend much time with Eid Mesmari to sense his passion for taekwondo and his love for Fujairah. Eid is keen to develop some world class players in Fujairah and the entire eastern region and the Fujairah team is already first in the Emirates this year. He is hoping that Fujairah might host some national and international tournaments in the near future.
Mesmari is eager for his taekwondo friends around the world to visit the UAE and especially the emirate of Fujairah. He says, “There is much for tourists to see in Dubai but I love the naturalness of Fujairah. It is more normal. One can get a sense of how people have lived here for centuries. I want the whole world to know Fujairah and when my people do well on the sporting stage it is a way of saying, ‘We are here.’”
Taekwondo at Maktoum Championships on 20 August
Eid Mesmari and his Fujairah taekwondo team will have an opportunity to display their talent at the Ramadan Tournament on 20 August 2010. They will be joined by other taekwondo athletes from around the UAE.
Mesmari is looking forward to the Maktoum Championships because he believes strongly that sport is vital for building the country.
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Image: “One does not have to spend much time with Eid Mesmari to sense his passion for taekwondo and his love for Fujairah.”