There is no NCAA in Qatar. Northwestern does not officially suit up a group of Wildcats in its satellite campus in Doha’s Education City.
The Qatari campus was a big deal for Northwestern as it spread its brand internationally into one of the growing and economically developing countries in the world. It was a strong endeavor. But we, as Northwestern students and alums on this side of the world, do not hear much about them, their developments, their studies and their campus culture.
It should be no surprise that there are intramural and extramural sports and that Northwestern is well represented.
For the last two years, I have been the assistant coach of the women’s Wildcats basketball team at Northwestern University in Qatar. The players are Arab, many are Muslim and most have never participated in organized sports.
But let’s make no mistake. They may be girls. They may be Arab. They may even be Muslim. But they go hard. It’s no secret that Middle Eastern women are often slow to progress in certain arenas. That Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, for the first time, sending women to the London games is not insignificant. So when talking about Arab women playing basketball, it is tempting for us to see their participation as novel, a glimmer of hope for which their very freedom is at stake. However, when the Wildcats are out on the court, they aren’t thinking about being trailblazers, they are thinking about the game.
A young Arab Muslim woman living in the Gulf can get a thrill from a clutch defensive rebound late in the fourth quarter, or get amped up by a sick layup off the transition, and it actually has nothing to do with her being an Arab Muslim woman. It does, however, have everything to do with her being an athlete. That herthrill of victory or agony of defeat would feel any different from a male American athlete is absurd.
It is an interesting perspective on the impact Northwestern and American universities are having on the culture, and on humanity in general. As Peterson says, when they are preparing their team, they are not grooming the next generation. They are trying to beat Georgetown University’s team in Doha, that is all.
It is the always powerful reminder that sports makes all the other political, religious, racial things not matter. Sport makes it about the team and about working together to accomplish a goal. It is empowering and something we cling to when we watch these sports.
And like in Evanston, the Northwestern Wildcats are bringing the Northwestern Qatar campus together.
Once again proves, sports do not need a language.