Festival of fun and cash

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Huge incentive for Abu Dhabi event Prize money of Dh14m draws over 3,000 entries to this year's sporting extravaganza Amith Passela ABU DHABI // A windfall of Dh14million to be shared in a series of sporting events has attracted some of the regions' leading sports men and women and provided an international flavour to the 12th Armed Forces Officers Club Ramadan Sports Festival in Abu Dhabi. The five-a-side football competition for both the men and women is the high point of the festival with teams recruiting some of the Pro League players and foreigners. The festival has attracted a total of more than 3,000 entries rto the sports of tennis, table tennis, snooker, shooting, volleyball, bowling, chess, jiu jitsu, judo, fencing, athletics and swimming.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed inaugurated the colourful opening ceremony with the action on the field to follow over the next three weeks. Lt Gen Mohammed Hilal al Kaabi, the chairman of the club and the head of the organising committee, felt it was an opportunity for the top-class athletes - local and international - to compete in the festival. He said: "It is open for all and an opportunity for the international athletes, the Emiratis and the expatriate community to take part. And it's rewarding too, with generous cash prizes.

"This festival has grown enormously from its humble beginning where prizes were trophies and gifts. Now we have a cash prize totalling Dh14m, Dh4m more than last year. It is incredible, it just keeps adding every year. "When we first started, it was for our members only. It was open from the second year and since the last two years we have received entries from all over the Middle East and other parts of the world. I believe it will continue to grow and eventually draw some big names."

Some of the football teams in the men's competition have contracted players from Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia, and the women's event has drawn the national teams of Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia as well as hosts the UAE. Mohammed Shehab,the No 1 ranked cueist in the country, heads the list in the snooker tournament that also includes the national team players from all the Gulf countries, Egypt and Syria.

Tennis, too, has drawn the top players from the Gulf and some who regularly participate in the WTA ranking tournaments. apassela@thenational.ae