Dubai: Individual sportspersons from the Arab world are hard to find. And even those who had made it big had done so on their own steam.
Like Egyptian footballer Mahmoud Al Khatib, popularly nicknamed ‘Bibo' or Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli or the UAE shooter Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum.
Each of these have not only taken sport to a different level, but they have managed to have such an influence on their own society that they have evolved into role models for a better and fresher world.
Bibo played for Egypt's Al Ahli (named the African club of the 20th century) between 1972 to 1988 and for the Egyptian national team from 1974 to 1986, scoring 27 goals. He was considered one of the most skilled football players from Egypt before his retirement in 1988 after spending 16 years with Al Ahli. During his years at Al Ahli, Bibo won the Egyptian League 11 times, the Egyptian Cup six times, the African Cup Winner's Cup three times and the African Champions League twice. He was also chosen the best player in Egypt five times.
However, his most defining statement could well be being selected to be a member of the International Committee for Fair Play after playing 450 domestic and international games without being reprimanded once.
Mellouli, voted the best Arab sportsman for three successive years (2008, 2009, 2010), made the Arab world proud when he took gold in the 1,500m freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In doing so the Tunis-born lad became the first-ever Arab swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual swimming event. It was also the first Olympic gold medal for the entire Africa — South Africa's men's 4x100m freestyle relay squad had won a similar honour at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Shaikh Ahmad's rise to fame lay in his dramatic gold medal in double trap shooting at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The euphoria surrounding that win was never before seen in the UAE for any sportsperson with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, personally going to the airport to receive "the UAE's lone Olympic golden boy".