The term Happy New Year is associated with hope, excitement, and a renewed sense of ‘Joie de Vivre’ (Joy of Living), alongside contemplations of how to experience items on our wish list during the new calendar year. 

This year just happens to be exceptionally more exciting, because it has no rule or guide book of experience from years gone by.  This is the year that we try what we think will work, and adapt the philosophy of ‘Que Sera Sera’ (whatever will be, will be).

This past summer, the International Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board organised an e-FIFA tournament, to unite football lovers while shedding light upon these unprecedented times. Players were able to come together and compete regionally, nationally and internationally to determine the ultimate e-FIFA champion. In the absence of a playing field, these players were able to experience victory, sportsmanship and a rush of adrenaline as they participated in a series of matches. The tournament consisted of players from across the globe, including North America, the Middle East and South Asia. The diversity amongst these players created unity and gave players an opportunity to connect through their passion for FIFA. This tournament became a platform for players to bond through common interests and love for the games.

Zahra Adatia, a UAE representative for the event, described that “while the pandemic consumes our thoughts and restricts our movement, the Ismaili eFootball Cup proved to be a wonderful little escape.” She further went on to describe how the event built “a sense of camaraderie and unity” and provided our brothers and sisters from across the globe with the opportunity to “connect, bond and compete from the comfort of [their] homes.” The event was described to be one of healthy competition with a wide range of age groups playing a game that united them all. The international leaders of this wide-scale event aspired to encourage participation from all genders and skill levels as well, in order to promote diversity.

The primary focus of these games was to educate, engage and excite the participants and spectators. This Jubilee Games initiative looked to educate members of the Jamat about community building benefits as well as the online etiquette of e-sports. In addition to this, the initiative aimed to engage players and spectators by deploying effective programming and coherent messaging relating to the Ismaili e-football cup brand across various channels.  Finally,  the initiative hoped to build enthusiasm and anticipation in order to achieve a program that felt unique and grabbed the attention of those partaking as well as those watching.

Shamsuddin Thanawala, the national coordinator from the UAE, noted that the football tournament “helped bridge the physical distances and united the entire Jamat with a common goal, FIFA.” He further went on to express how “interacting with other athletes in the lounge or playing games with athletes from different regions has shown that no matter the physical distance, through technology we are able to become one Jamat.”

Players worldwide were able to share their thoughts on how their experiences helped them feel a sense of belonging, during difficult times. Khalid Al Zadjali, who represented the GCC and qualified into the international rounds, “thought it was a really unique experience.” He also expressed how representing his jurisdiction was “a privilege” as he was able “to meet other e-athletes from around the world.” Another international qualifier who represented the UAE, Amsal Mohammed, described the tournament as “an enjoyable experience” as he was able to “reconnect with a few of [his] friends outside of the UAE.” Many players felt that this tournament allowed them to be a part of a larger initiative, which helped them overcome the barriers the pandemic may have created.

Mawlana Hazar Imam often emphasizes that his murids should be continuously looking to educate and inspire one another. The e-FIFA tournament was able to establish a platform where Ismailis from around the world were able to share their love for e-sports. Upon receiving the Tolerance award at the Tutzing Evangelical Academy, Germany on the 20th of May 2006, Mawlana Hazar Imam noted that “instead of shouting at one another, we must listen to one another — and learn from one another.”

This tournament has been a wonderful depiction of how, even during the most challenging
times, Ismailis from across the globe were able to come together and connect through their interests. Let us all continue to inspire, educate and assist one another in the pluralistic manner that connects us together, as this exciting tournament has achieved. 

Let us make 2021 the year of many firsts and new findings.   Happy New Year.