The progress of all sports activities rely on the strictness of rule implementation. We must appreciate the sole factor of restriction enabling proper playing by regulation. Players have a role to avoid breaking the rules of any game (Delgado, 2000). Although these rules have been stated and learnt when playing volleyball, Dubai has remained reluctant to these rules. It is breaking most of the common rules and records that were monopolized by the western hemisphere. What is ironic is that the pioneers of these achievements are brought from the west. With them came their leisure time, like clubbing, bars, music concerts, sports events like rugby and cricket. With these events came around new sorts of communities that are active on daily basis. Considering the multinational identities, races and nationalities on Dubai, a sort of mutual language of behavior is established to sustain the continuity of sport communities, especially in public domains.
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I explored a completely new domain that is not familiar to me, a domain that is dominant by expatriates, and not everyone is welcome, directly or indirectly. I tend to explain the relationships build in such environment, is it beneficial is terms of getting to know people who might be useful in the future? A chance to enjoy sports after a busy working day? Loosing up frustration from family? Otherwise, it could be all these reasons or one of them. These reasons tend to change as well, as I was told by Rey, a Filipino player, he told me: “ I came here when I had nothing to do, I used to be out of job, nothing to do most of the time, so I come and play volleyball, however this changed when I met someone in that court who offered me a job, now I come and play with my boss when I’m sure there is no work pending, so I stay on my boss’s good side.” He wouldn’t tell me though who is his employer.
In this paper, I became friends with a group of volleyball players in Jumeirah five, a mix of more than 10 nationalities, who gather around nearly on daily basis to play volleyball in ShaikhHamdan Bin Muhammad playgrounds. The playgrounds consist of three well-maintained beach volleyball courts, one soap football court and free outdoor body workout equipment’s. The Municipality of Dubai had established volleyball courts for public practices. However, any group of people or a company can rent the place for a private event. Is rare as that happening commonly its used by the public. I first came to hear about this place was during an event hosted by Carrefour, where I used to work. However my younger brother is more frequent. Both my brother and I used to play Volleyball for the Al Naser club, so we are familiar with the game and the rules. And since my brother is more social than me, he kept more friends from the club, and through them he met new people who share the same passion for the game.
When I started visiting the playground initially for the propose of writing this paper, I used to take my paper and a pen, and sit for hours, watching their play and behavior, looking at them whispering about who this guy is and what is he writing about us, and some of them actually approached me to ask if I am working for police or CID, feeling sorry to disappoint their excitement, I informed them that I am just writing some notes for my university paper. That didn’t stop them from whispering though. Not until one of the guys called Hilal, who is a Yamani, started asking about the paper, and came to know that my brother Saleh is frequent there, which afterwards he invited me to play.
By that day I became an old topic, and known to most of them as a random player. This changed my method of getting information required for the paper, more interactive and affirmative. Once I was in their circle of trust and familiar faces, I stared asking random questions to acquire information that is relevant to the paper. It was a great feeling mixing work and pleasure at the same time, especially after establishing a well-maintained and respected relation. Their playing rules however where new for me, maybe because I never played beach volleyball professionally. In Al Nasar club I used to play the internationally famous volleyball, which is six players against another team of six. But in the beach they prefer playing two against two, which is harder and requires more stamina than the usual six on six game. Knowing that I have to work out a bit to actually keep up with the other players who spend their days and night playing beach volley, I started working out and asked my younger brother to play with me frequently so I will stay fit.
Furthermore, I discovered that its actually unlikely that the majority will give up the court to play six on six, they prefer two by two on any given day, this might cause an issue for new comers who prefer playing in a group rather than just two guys keep winning the rest have to sit and watch. I asked one of the Emirati players Aziz about this arrangement and he said: “ im fine with playing with two players at a time, but it becomes boring if we lost, that means we have to wait for a while till we can play again, we rather play in a group so everyone can enjoy” on the other hand I asked Christine, an American girl, she said: “ I enjoy playing two on two, it’s much more fun and hyper. I do get bored sometimes sitting and waiting for my turn, but my group asks me to keep track of points and calling out the winners and who plays next, so I’m always doing something.”
Sports are tools of unity that bring ethnicities, nations, races and tribes together in competitive activities (Horne & Manzenreiter, 2006). In my case, there are more than 10 nationalities that are frequent, and these nationalities are Yamani, Indian, Pilipino, British, American, Lebanese, Russian, Moroccan, French and Japanese. However there are other nationalities who sometime come for a random play. Yet I couldn’t confirm the exact number of nationalities. Some of these players drive all the way from Sharjah, Ajman and some even from Abu Dhabi to play. Due this mix of nationalities, there is an established mutual understanding among the players, obviously the respect can’t be forced by regulation like office environment where discrimination or shouting is not allowed and intolerable, and of course Dubai police and Dubai municipality won’t have time to stay on the playground to watch people behave.
So the players tend to act as adult and understanding to all nationalities, however there are some people who manage to show some rudeness or even superiority on other nationalities, this comes by unacceptable to most, and as a group they might even kick out the guy or girl who caused it, to give an example of that is Josef, a Lebanese American guy who is well known in the volleyball courts for his attitude. In one occasion Josef shouted at a Pilipino guy for making him loos round one of a game, an argument arose between both of them, and it lead to discontinuing the game, and the next team played instead. It might not have been a superiority act, but it makes me wonder if Josef would act the same if he was playing with an American, British or even Emirati partner?
According to what I have observed, whoever is visiting Jumeirah five volleyball courts, does so in groups at least the majority of the. They either call each other when they want to play or fix a date or time to play. The most noticeable groups are the Yamani group my main informative in that group is Hilal and my brother. Josef’s group has more than one nationality, mostly his friends from work or acquaintances, Khalid’s group, a Syrian guy, again mostly his friends from work or acquaintances. The Emirati group, a guy called Musabbeh who I usually talk mostly with from this group. The Pilipino group and my contact in this group are mostly with a guy called ReyletSunga. And finally the mix European and American group, my main contact in this group is a girl called Christine.
Mostly all the groups have around 8 to 14 people in them. In a group level, each group has boundaries and limits when it comes to interactions which each other. For example: Muneer has the largest group with him, however, he doesn’t utilize the volleyball court to play volleyball, he is investing his time and experience in volleyball to train other players for a minimum fee of 200 per month. This arrangement utilizes one of the nets for a period of two to three hours every day except of Friday. As a municipality officer, this would be wrong and illegal, other groups could simply complain that one court is being used for personal benefit not for public use, however Muneer is gladly training who ever needs to be trained in his free time without charge, a sign of a friendly act or a bribe.
Players engage frequently to improve their interactions in the games. When players spend time together, they improvise strategies of playing and discuss their winning strategies because they have a common goal (Schinke & Hanrahan, 2009). Therefore, these groups have a unique way of interaction outside the field. For example, they prepares meetings in special occasions such as birthdays, weddings or random food sharing session. Food sharing is common among players, specially the frequent visitors to the beach, specially every Friday, since its crowded and most of them are off from work, most of them come with their family, so they BBQ near the volleyball courts, or bring ready food to eat in between matches. Sharing food is a bit more tricky and sensitive though, because if they bothered bringing food, and actually invited a certain group to the table, it’s a bit awkward for other acquaintances, who are merely few meters away, and might feel neglected and ignored.
Some groups don’t care, they just come to play volleyball and leave, but some take it personally and actually start gossiping to other peers about how the food is left over from the day previous. Some groups like the Filipinos, they bring cookies and share it with whoever present at the time. Furthermore with the Japanese ladies who frequently bring food and distribute it among all players. In one occasion however, Rasheed, a Moroccan guy made his sons birthday on the beach and invited only Pilipino. Another example of a group activity, I was invited to a birthday party in A Qouz, by Aziz, and from all the players from Jumeirah 5, I only saw two local guys and 3 Yamani guys, and when I asked Aziz why didn’t you invite the rest of the players, he replied: “these guys won’t fit in with crowd”. Later I confirmed he was referring to the white players and Filipinos.
Furthermore, I was invited to play volleyball with these guys who have their own organized volleyball matches in Al Safa School’s indoor court. Yet again, I didn’t see any non-Arab nationalities there as well, and I asked my brother why do they split to play separately from their usual crowd, he said: “the white people have strict rules, as if they play an international games, most of the time wasted arguing about the rules, and eventually we disagree and play on another court with muwateneen and Yamaneyeen only.” He went on by saying: “we gather mostly on Fridays, when Jumeirah 5 courts are full and crowded, and we have to wait for hours to play one match, even if we won, we are requested to sit because there are others who want to play.” My brother continues: “we still prefer going to the beach and play, and we keep showing up because sometimes some of us can’t afford paying for the private court in Al Safa School, which costs 200 per hour, and we usually play for an average of three hours.” As I have asked around not all of them are working, actually some of them are still studying in schools.
Randomly asking some of player about their commitment to play, they usually say that it’s fun and a good activity to be doing in their busy working schedule. Musabbeh stated: “I usually go to my friends majlis in Jumeirah to play cards or even a shisha café, but this is better from time to time to be hyper”. Rey said: “I’m glad im coming to play, other than volleyball, I met my boss here who helped me with my financial situation by giving me a job. Plus I like the friendly environment, despite of some negativity from some players, the general ambiance is nice.”
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Delgado, M. (2000). New arenas for community social work practice with urban youth: use of the arts, humanities, and sports. New York: Columbia University Press.
Horne, J., & Manzenreiter, W. (2006). Sports mega-events: social scientific analyses of a global phenomenon. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub./Sociological Review.
Schinke, R., & Hanrahan, S. J. (2009). Cultural sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.