SPO_161010_CRICKET Left to Right, Maqbul Dudhia general manager sports business dubai sports city and Usman wahla general manager cricket operations of pakistan cricket board at the Cricket Stadium in Sport City, Dubai. Photo: A.K Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: Maqbul Dudhia, whose name was synonymous with the Dubai Sports City, has decided to move on. After having played a significant role in shaping Sports City as the hub of sport and wellness in his role of General Manager (Sports Business) he now plans to take on a fresh challenge.

For close to a decade, Dudhia worked tirelessly in shaping one of the best sporting facilities in the city by organising high profile events and overseeing the introduction of different sports academies in the Dubai Sports City premises. A former Zimbabwaen cricketer, his last event was the historic day-night Test match between Pakistan and West Indies, and Pakistan’s 400th Test match, which was held at the Dubai International Stadium.

Speaking to Gulf News on the last day of the Test match, after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) honoured him during the prize giving ceremony with the 400th Test match cap, he said: “My heart feels a bit torn, especially since I’ve been involved in so many good things here at the Dubai Sports City across so many wonderful moments, and for the kind of support I’ve had from the ownership to realise some of our dreams. I believe now is the time for me to further my career on a wider platform. I am fortunate to get an opportunity that puts me on a regional platform across a number of sports through an internationally and globally known sports management marketing company.”

A trail of Dudhia’s achievements over the years is also the tale of this sporting venue’s battle against many odds to establish as a reputed sporting centre and obtain international acclaim. “I started in January 2007, and the first part of my job was to oversee the facilities in the creation of the Dubai International stadium. I worked with the engineers and architects to make it compliant for cricket as per ICC regulations, and also a media and player friendly one. It was good working with a nice team made up of all types of professionals, including the grounds team to get it started. It was phenomenal to see the rise of this stadium from the sands. Those days, this part of Dubai Sports City was a very sandy area and witnessing it come up was special. It’s a tribute to the vision of the owners, and it has been phenomenal.”

Dudhia’s cricketing background helped him immensely in his job. “My origin is from Zimbabwe where I grew up and played all my sport and studies. I was fortunate and privelleged to have represented Zimbabwe in cricket as well . I made my debut in 1983. Those days we weren’t a Test playing country. I did not play too many games, but played in the ICC Trophy which Zimbabwe won,” remembers Dudhia who was a right hand medium pacer. “My peer at that time was Duncan Fletcher. He was my captain and coach; those days we did not have the luxury of having coaches and physios, and we had to raise money to travel. Others in my team were people like Andy Pycroft, who is a match referee now, Dave Houghton and John Traicos.

Dudhia took active part in all of the ICC Academy activities. “Since my job description was General Manager, Sports Business, it covered all the acadamies, working with senior management and owners. With time, we planned on creating more destinations in the academy area, and thus created the sports village.”

Dudhia proudly recalls the tale of the Dubai International stadium which is now hailed as the one among the best stadiums in world cricket. “The original design of the stadium was by a German company called GNP. They had designed and built a number of top class football venues all over the world. There was a lot of football input into this stadium, like the Ring of Fire, which is unique in the cricketing world; but it’s been phenomenal. The lights are absolutely amazing and the design was such that every seat in the stand has a brilliant view and closeness to the action. It was the vision of the owners to have a stadium that is in close proximity to the fans.”

Dudhia also played a crucial role in spreading the activities of the Dubai Sports City. “We created our own programmes like the cricket warriors programme, a smaller programme for the little kids called cricket cubs, that covers youn kids from the walking age to five years old. Soon we had most of the leading cricket teams come and train here. West Indies trained here before they went for the Twenty20 World Cup and emerged champions. We prepared spin-friendly wickets since they were playing in India, England did the same before they went to India. The trained here for 10 to 14 days to acclimatize to conditions in India. We brought soil from different parts of the world, subcontinent and Australia to ensure the same behavior from the ball. So we have quick, fast and slower wickets here... which is unique.”

It isn’t cricket alone that got a boost through the Dubai Sports City. “We have the Spanish Soccer Schools run by former Real Madrid and Spain legend Michel Salgado. I feel privileged to have been part and parcel of its creation. We have over 1200 kids and is the most successful junior football programme in the Middle East. We are also home to a number of other sports in our sports park. There are a a few Rugby teams, we are home to the Emirates American football league, which is another unique event that has a big following, and we are also home to the Dubai Calts. We had some iconic moments not only in cricket, though the highlight of cricket was the India Premier League which was an unbelievable success. It was the biggest event ever in Dubai in terms of numbers and spectators. Over 250,000 came to watch and we accounted to half of that viewership attendance. We had the Pakistan Super League launch, the opening game and the final earlier this year, and the second edition is set for 2017. Another highlight of the stadium was playing host to Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi where nearly 34,000 people attended that particular event. That was the biggest single event in terms of numbers apart from hosting a few concerts like those of AR Rahman. “

Dudhia is hoping that Dubai Sports City will continue to spread its wings. “I am sure it will go from strength to strength and will continue to be the sporting and wellness hub . It’s very important to emphasis on wellness to promote a healthy life style and for the entire family. We have been deliberate in our strategy to provide something for the family, in the sense that there is something for the mum to do and be active in some areas, and the Dad can also be active in his pursuit or passion, and there might be something for the teenager, the youth and the child. So the whole philosophy is to bring the family groups together and participate, be it in the gym, football, cricket, rugby, or tennis. Everybody, in my opinion, is an athlete whether you just walking or whether you are serious conditioning person. I hope that everybody enjoys some of the sunshine and some of the physical activities here.”