DUBAI, 10th March 2018: Matar Ali Ahmed Rashed Al Habsi hailing from Ras Al Khaimah was crowned as the Youlah champion at a gala ceremony during the 13th and final episode of the 18th edition of the AED 1 million Fazza Championship for Youlah and 13th edition of Al Meydan Program at Al Meydan Fort of Global Village on Friday 9th March.
The packed arena went delirious with excitement when it was announced that the 22-year-old policeman was the popular winner having received more votes from the public than Hamdan bin Musleh Al Ahbabi who earned second place and was the first to congratulate the new champion.
It brought the curtain down on weeks of brilliant entertainment by the 16 Yuweel finalists who showcased the unique Emirati culture of Youlah which was telecast live on Sama Dubai television channel every Friday.
H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, His Excellency Abdullah Hamdan Bin Dalmook, CEO at HHC, Rashid Bin Markhan, Deputy CEO at HHC, Ms. Suad Ibrahim Darwish, Director of Championships at HHC, and officials from the Center attended the colourful closing ceremony with the judges leading the way to exhibit their Youlah artistry to the lilting songs of Eida Al Menahli, Hussain Al Jissmi and Nawal and poet Saif Al Saady.
Adding to the drama and suspense during the final episode was the manner in which the glittering Fazza Youlah Championship Trophy was brought to the stage. Hamdan Saeed Al Rumaithi, a Yuweel finalist himself, led a group of camel riders into the arena before depositing the golden trophy on the stand.
Before the announcement of the champion, a pre-recorded film of the two finalists saddling their horses and facing off in the desert like two Arabian knights was broadcast on the giant screens.
The excitement reached a crescendo when the winner was announced with Matar Al Habsi being mobbed by his numerous fans.
“I am happy. I will perform Umrah (minor pilgrimage). I want to thank all the people who supported me so much by voting for me all the way to the final,” said Al Habsi overwhelmed with emotions after his triumph.
It was a case of being third time lucky for Matar Al Habsi, who was a finalist during the last two editions of the championship. He emerged as a favourite after getting a perfect score of 50 by delivering a flawless performance with two Yuweel weapons during the 12th episode a fortnight.
“It was not the first time I got a 50. I did it last year too. Performing with two guns comes naturally for me because I perform at weddings and functions. I have been in love with Youlah from the age of five and practice this unique art almost every day. My life revolves around performing Youlah,” said Matar Al Habsi who is shy by nature but expresses himself on stage through his wizardry.
Hamdan Al Ahbabi, a Dubai Police firefighter, said he was not disappointed at being placed second because Matar Al Habsi is a worthy winner.
“Matar Al Habsi is a really good Youlah performer. Matar won because he got more votes from the public. If he or I win it is same. He is also my oldest friend. I will come back next year and win the cup,” said Al Ahbabi, 27, who has been practicing the art of Youlah since the age of 10.
“I continue training because it is our tradition. I was the only contestant to hit the 20-meter mark while throwing. I hope to emulate the achievement of my brother Saeed who won this title for two years in a row,” said Al Ahbabi.
Hamad Alderei, a member of the three-man Jury, affirmed that there was very little to choose between the two finalists.
“Both got a top score of 50 in the final. They are the only two to get 50 this season. The difference is just about audience preference. They choose by voting. Both are champions,” said Alderei, a Youlah champion in 2003.
Saeed Mohammed Sweidan Al Ketbi emerged as the winner in the contest for the 3rd and 4th place with Saeed Ali Hamad Ali Al Kaabi.
Saeed Al Ketbi expressed his gratitude to fans for their support throughout his career and pledged to return next year in an attempt to win the Cup. Saeed Al Kaabi also said he is wiser by the experience and would strive harder next time.
Organized and supervised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC) to revive heritage sports, 16 finalists vied for the grand prize of AED 1 million and the Fazza Youlah Championship Trophy being held over 13 rounds of the competition every Friday at 9pm.
Held at HHC’s Heritage Village at Dubai’s Global Village, the qualifying rounds saw the participation of 411 contestants, prior to the launch of the Youlah Championship in December.
This year’s Championship saw four performers in every episode until the second round and ‘Golden Square’ stage. The ‘Golden Square’ round will comprise four contestants, two of whom will be competing for third and fourth place, and the other two will be competing for first and second place.
The official sponsors of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center are: Al Tayer Motors Land Rover, Dubai Airports, Dubai World Trade Centre, AW Rostamani (Arabian Automobiles), Global Village and Al Oula radio station.
‘Youlah’ is a well-established folk performance over the years where an iconic rifle is spun around to the rhythmic beat of Emirati traditional music. One of the heritage traditions performed by the young and the not so elderly during ceremonies, Youlah as a sport began with real weapons in the past and then evolved into a weapon used with a hollow inside and free of ammunition. Now it has become even lighter enabling participants to display greater agility and more skills in a dance form.