Angels in the Outfield

Eleven NYUAD students compete in a charity football tournament.

The majority of NYUAD students know what it's like to be far away from home, missing friends and family, and craving a conversation in their native tongue. So it's no surprise that 11 students recently participated in a charity event for those in a similar situation. Competing in a charity football tournament to raise funds for The Angel Appeal, a project by The Mission to Seafarers, the students laced up their boots to help the organization provide seafarers at anchor (off the coast of Fujairah, but too far out to come ashore) vital contact from family and friends.

While the students have easy access to computers and the Internet, the seafarers — most of them spending an average of eight months at sea — do not. Often living without basic facilities, let alone Internet access, the crews endure extended periods of isolation and loneliness, separated from loved ones and unable to communicate with the outside world. Enter the M/V Flying Angel, a mobile floating center that operates seven days a week during daylight hours and is equipped with Internet facilities, telephones, a library, a small shop for essential items, and a Welfare Officer. The seafarers may even run into someone who speaks their language.

We believe that athletics should be used as a tool for positive social change on a global scale.

Peter Dicce, Director of Athletics at NYUAD

"We've had an ongoing dialogue about the future of the NYUAD Athletic program and its legacy," said NYUAD Director of Athletics Peter Dicce, who was also the NYUAD teams' coach for the tournament. "We believe that athletics should be used as a tool for positive social change on a global scale." As Dicce noted, once the department found out about the event, "we were eager to help in our own small way."

And the tournament, held at the Dubai International Seafarers Centre, was a success for NYUAD in more ways than one. In addition to all funds raised being put toward helping seafarers over the festive period, the students — playing on two five-a-side teams — made it to the semi-finals (with one team going on to battle it out in the championship match) and ultimately won second and third place out of 19 teams.

"This experience was amazing," said David Bassini, NYUAD Class of 2014, the teams' captain. "Winning matches all the way to the final is a beautiful feeling." Bassini, who played despite severe ear pain, made sure to keep a positive attitude throughout the tournament, knowing the team would pick up on his vibe. "We are starting to become a big family," he said. "We support each other, scream for each other, and cheer each other on. Being named captain was an honor. I feel very proud of the job we did as a team."

For Madhav Vaidyanathan, NYUAD Class of 2014, participating in the tournament wasn't just about playing the game he loves, boosting the team's chemistry, or taking a break from schoolwork. "To be able to do this for an even greater social cause certainly adds that extra value to the experience," he said. As part of the team that played in the championship match, Vaidyanathan enjoyed even more satisfaction when the referee chose him as Player of the Finals. Down 0-2 in the final game, he scored twice, bringing the team up to 2-2. The other team scored one more goal and won, but, as Vaidyanathan said, "The referee chose to give me the award. I am grateful for that."

The tournament ended with a barbecue for the crowd of players and spectators, but the students did not have time to eat. After the awards ceremony, they were whisked back to Abu Dhabi for the Kanye West concert, a show to celebrate the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix.