There was a time when I used to think that Ramadan meant the entire country would go into shutdown mode. But it took me just a year to realize this couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Not only did Qatar not display the slightest hint of a slowdown, its sports scene grew busier. From the traditional season-opening Sheikh Jassim Cup football, to the extremely active Ramadan friendly tournaments at the nooks and crannies of Qatar, there was something for everyone. The whole country had become a beehive of sporting action.

Even as I type this, I’m watching a fiery football game between two teams made up of people like you and me — who fasted the entire day — for a trophy which doesn’t even carry any prize money. But seeing the players wear the pride of being a part of the tournament on their sleeves is enough to make one’s heart grow all warm and fuzzy.

I asked some of them why they would fight for the little trophy as if their entire life depended on winning it? As it turned out, their unexpected answer was that, in a way, it did.

“We play for pride. We all belong to the same neighborhood and there’s much prestige attached to this little title,” said one. “Me and my two brothers are in the same team. So we want to win this trophy as a family,” said another.

Whatever the reasons, there was no denying that they played their hearts out, in mind-numbing humidity, after breaking fast just a couple of hours earlier.

One shouldn’t think that physically exhausting football games are the only avenues open to a sports fan during the holy month of Ramadan. Indoor events, like chess and bowling, organized by their respective national federations, are also on in full swing. They too attract sizable crowds from various nationalities from around the country.

There were some competitions which offered winners much more than mere bragging rights. Some had prize money ranging from QR10,000 to QR400,000. Such big numbers may boggle the mind, but in my opinion, they lacked the human touch which I found in the football game in the little enclave somewhere deep inside Qatar.

Ramadan is not just about fasting, but also about one’s commitment to cleanse the body and maintain it in perfect physical condition. From what little I’ve seen in Qatar, such friendly events bring out the best in people.

Would a player in a cash-rich tournament answer for his brother on the field? Unlikely. He would be keener to avoid injuries to himself. I asked the same question to the players I watched. And each time, the answer was a resounding "YES!"

For me, that embodied the true spirit of Ramadan.

–    Taita TS

Image: Qatar Football Association

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