Club ready for 'operation siege'

A gun battle simulation tournament at the Armed Forces Officer;s Club will begin on March 5 with the participation of about 200 UAE airsoft hobbyists.

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ABU DHABI // The Armed Forces Officers' Club is under siege. The objectives seem basic enough: attack and defend, rescue the hostage, escort the VIP and destroy enemy cells. But unlike the skirmishes real tactical units face, "Operation: Sahara el Qasia" is not a high-stakes combat scenario. It is a gun battle simulation tournament that will begin on March 5 with the participation of about 200 UAE airsoft hobbyists.
The Emirates Airsoft Federation's first national games will involve at least 12 teams shooting each other with 6mm plastic pellets from replica firearms. Organisers hope this will also be the first step towards getting the activity recognised as a sport. "We're inviting the General Authority for Youth and Sports Welfare and the headquarters of the police, so it will be the first time they can attend and they can see what we do and then they can evaluate," said Ayman al Hashemi, an Emirati airsoft player who goes by the call sign "Koko".
Mr al Hashemi, 25, and an Adnoc employee, acknowledged that anyone new to airsoft may have reservations about the hobby due to "fear of something new" and distaste for seeing replica weapons such as AK47s, M4s and M16 rifles. But airsoft is no more dangerous than paintball, he argued, and all players are required to wear safety goggles and face protection. "We've had no injuries playing in three years," Mr al Hashemi said. "We have only small skin injuries. We don't have broken bones, so it's not even like football."
The airsoft federation has about 1,000 members "from America, South Africa, from Egypt, some Arabian countries, many Filipinos," Mr al Hashemi said. Jacquelene Jauculan, 26, from the Philippines, is among several female players. "I've always been interested in more extreme sports," said the recruitment officer, who uses a replica M4 rifle. "I found airsoft really gives you euphoria. It lets me release my aggression."
The federation's goal, according to Mr al Hashemi, is to set up a UAE national airsoft team to compete officially in international tournaments.