The following article was written by Lujain Almulla, captain of team Pampered Cats and head of women’s ultimate in the newly formed Kuwait Flying Disc Federation. Lujain discusses the recent grass-roots development of the sport in Kuwait, as well as some of the unique challenges they face trying to grow ultimate as a mixed gender sport in a country hostile to mixed gender activities.
Just a year ago, Kuwait was non-existent on the ultimate world map. Currently, the ultimate community in Kuwait is a relatively small one, but one that has been growing steadily. In a country where the population is four million, the active ultimate community is no more than a hundred members today. To put this into perspective, though, this number has grown from a mere handful of active players in early 2018 into two competitive teams today, and into the establishment of the Kuwait Flying Disc Federation.
Before 2018, expats who lived in Kuwait for short periods of time held pickup games irregularly, communicating through a Facebook group that would lie dormant again when any organizers left the country. Since then, however, a consistent weekly pickup brought in more people unfamiliar with the game beforehand, and the community organized the odd hat tournament now and then. In late 2019, the addition of a weekly training session attracted players who were interested in the competitive aspect of the sport. Things were rolling in the right direction when the community was faced with a barricade; the COVID-19 pandemic hit and prevented outdoor group gatherings, including team sports. However, despite this impediment, the ultimate community returned with more motivation and excitement, and in November 2020, the first ultimate frisbee league was organized, splitting players into three teams of twelve. The event was the first of its kind in Kuwait. The league’s training and games spanned across three months, and the high after the competition led to the establishment of two official teams—one that developed organically from a group that split during the league—a team called Pampered Cats—and another that formed after holding tryouts for the Kuwait Raptors pickup community, forming its official first lineup.
Pampered Cats established a weekly free community training session to attract more recruits and awareness of the sport locally, held team training twice a week, and got to send Kuwait’s first team internationally to participate in the Middle East North Africa Championships in 2021. The team ranked 7 out of 12 and won the Spirit of the Game award, which was an underdog victory for Kuwait—a country new to the regional ultimate stage. After meeting the ultimate community outside the country, Kuwait held a local fundraising tournament for one of the teams it met at the championships, Ultimate Palestine. The tournament attracted forty players and a crowd of supporters, raising funds to aid a team whose players face struggles to train in a war-torn region. Kuwait’s teams continued to participate in various regional and international tournaments, including Kuwait Raptors’ participation in the Egypt Open as well as a number of Pampered Cats players who joined forces with Ultimate Junkies of Dubai. Individuals from the Kuwait ultimate community got to also participate internationally in tournaments such as Windmill 2022—representing team Ultimate Palestine in Amsterdam—and the US Nationals Masters Championships.
The Kuwait Flying Disc Federation was established in 2021 and is a provisional member of WFDF. It sought recognition by Kuwait’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, but, unfortunately, the federation was faced with a setback as mixed gender sports in Kuwait are not recognized by the ministry. In fact, mixed gender sports, although not banned, are stigmatized by society. One of the struggles that the ultimate community faces is finding fields that allow mixed gender training and games. The limited options have resulted in groups being banned from certain fields, or pressure to book expensive fields instead, which has been restrictive to the growth of the sport locally. Being a small community, putting together women’s or men’s teams has been challenging, but a project that KFDF has on its agenda. The next step for the sport is infiltrating high schools and universities in hopes of introducing the sport to the younger generation in Kuwait—a demographic virtually unaware of this sport. To achieve this, KFDF members have sought out coaching certificates to start ultimate programs on campuses; the community believes that the spirit and sport of ultimate are pertinent to youth development and have the potential to be of great value to any school program. In a region where its youth need social reform, gender equality and female and youth empowerment, ultimate can be the ultimate influencer of positive change.
You can follow the Kuwait Flying Disc Federation on Instagram @kfdfofficial.