In 1979, when the late Abdullah Mishari Al Roudan passed away, a football tournament was developed in his honor to celebrate both his memory and achievements, and that of his generation as a whole. Given that The Holy Month of Ramadan is a time for daily fasting, and spiritual renewal, it was deemed the perfect time for an event meant to bring out the best in people and sports. Charity, as an important part of Islam as a whole, is especially prevalent during this time. It is under this edict that the spirit behind the Al Roudan Football Tournament started 33 years ago.
It all started with humble enough intent and origin. Any 5 players could form a team, all teams would play each other, and in the end- one team would be victorious! This process of daily knockout style tournaments, where the loser is out and the winner moves on to the next stage, would take place throughout the duration of Ramadan. The games themselves are meant to be a gift given to the people of Kuwait during this holy time. To this point, both the football tournament and corresponding Al Roudan Foundation are both non-profit organizations that put on these games as a free activity for multiple generations of families to get together during their time of fasting.
The tournament would stay in this form until 2007 when there was a deliberate effort to transform the event from a regional celebration to an international sports event (all whilst not losing sight of the original intent behind it). As such, they began to bring in World-renowned players and coaches, as well as continue to attract the best of Kuwaiti and regional talent. Incidentally, 2007 was also the first time it was aired on national television. Given two different time slots, the first of which is live, from 3-6pm with a rebroadcast from 12 am to 3am, the event grew in terms of scope.
The introduction of international sports figures including Mr. Joan Laporta (in 2009) former president of Barcelona Football Club, no small feat given that at this time they were arguably the number one team in the world. In their words, “his down to earth mentality and willingness to interact with the fans helped to make it a tremendous event.” The Spanish media that followed him to Kuwait also proved to be the first international exposure for this event.
The number of internationally famous sports figures that have followed reads like a list of “who’s who” in world wide football: Massimo Moratti and the legends of Inter Milan in 2010, Roberto Carlos and Edwin Van Der Star in 2011, Luis Figo in 2012. Given this track record, one can only assume that their plans for 2013 will be equally legendary. Especially in light of the fact that as of last year, Luis Figo has been the first person named as an Ambassador to the Al Roudan tournament, charged with not only getting the word out about the tournament to fans, but also to fellow professional players alike.
With the addition, in recent years, of the Al Roudan Juniors Tournament in which children between the ages of 8 and 13 have the chance to play. This is done not just to give the children something fun to do, but to help to develop and showcase the talent of the next generation.
Since 2010, as the level of play has increased, the competition has gotten harder, thus the bar is set higher. That said, it is still possible for any group of 5 guys to to put a team together and play. The registration period is open for only one day, for a 2-3 hour period. This has been out of necessity, as they normally get flooded with interested teams. There are a certain number of spots reserved for preselected teams including either international stars or past winners and favorites of the tournament. For the rest of you, that means a prequalification process that happens a couple weeks prior. That said, all the teams that register still get a chance to play. Not bad for an international event still on the grow, eh? During the actual event itself, the first 20 days are played by points, where the teams with the highest scores overall will move on to the next stage. Starting on the 21st day of Ramadan, they start the knockout tournament. This will take them from 38 teams down to the best 2 competing on the last day.
Every year they have a number of games, competitions, giveaways, and other interactive components that they like to keep as a surprise. So, beyond just a spectator event there ends up being a much more interactive component to it. Though they are guarded as to what the exact details of what the updated challenges are, there are ones coming and each day it will be something new; additionally, you are entered in the contest just by showing up. They consider it like a family event given the tone and tenor of those who come. All the money that is raised from the sponsors of the event is managed by the Al Roudan Foundation and goes both towards a variety of charities, as well as putting on the following years events. Last year, for example, they had one promotion that asked people to come dressed in the authentic clothing of their dream destination, those who won were treated with free business class round trip air fare to that location. Another giveaway saw a Football inspired, daily 500KD cash-prize give away that rolled over every day until somebody could achieve the-eh, goal!
During the 28 days of games, a crowd of approximately 70,000 will fill the local stadium to witness the games. They recognize that to ask somebody to compete in this tournament during a time that they are fasting as well is, in itself, a feat that should not be overlooked here. The team that brings you the Al Roudan Tournament truly feel like they are making dreams happen, and that the corresponding charity they create by virtue of the games, are as important as the games themselves. They want to be part of the holy month by providing a needed entertainment to the community. Weather you are putting a team together as we speak, hoping to win a prize, or just showing up to watch a few games—there is a little something here for everyone.
Al Roudan Football Tournament takes place during Ramadan and is free to all! See event info online at www.alroudanfootballtournament.com.