Palestine Pulse

Who is this 20-year-old that Gaza sports fans love to hear?

Article Summary
Award-winning sports commentator Hesham Muammar has been considered a “boy wonder” ever since he won the Watar talent competition at the age of 14. Now he has taken over management of a radio station.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Award-winning sports commentator Hesham Muammar, the youngest sports announcer on the Gaza sports scene, is going to manage the local sports radio station Amwaj for the next four months.

The appointment — a decision of Amwaj Sports owner Abdul Salam Haniyeh — marks the first time a senior management post has been given to a young student.

Muammar has been considered a “boy wonder” ever since he won the Watar talent competition at age 14 in 2012. By then, he had already been a sports commentator for two years.

Muammar, who is studying media and mass communication at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Monitor that when he was little, he would comment on the soccer video games he played with his older brother. When his mother discovered his obsession and talent for sports commentary, she took him to the headquarter of Fursan al Irada radio station in central Gaza and asked them if her son could commentate for them. He was only 12 at the time.

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“The broadcast staff asked me to record a commentary for the 2010 World Cup final match [between the Netherlands and Spain] as a test and I passed,” Muammar told Al-Monitor. “I joined the broadcast staff, becoming the youngest sports commentator in Palestine. I participated in local contests and sports polls, winning the title of the best young sports commentator.”

Muammar won the award for best sports commentator for three years in a row, 2015, 2016 and 2017, which is given based on polls conducted by papers and local sports websites, such as Koora and Amwaj Sports and the Palestine-based Al-Ayam newspaper. “I proceeded to the finals of Mu’aleq al Jamaheer [People's Commentator] competition, which was held by the Algeria-based Echourouk TV channel,” he said. “But I did not win. I came in third in the Mu’aleq Sawt al Mubara [The Voice of the Game] competition, held by Al-Kass TV channel in Qatar on Jan. 15.”

As one of the finalists in the Mu’aleq Sawt al Mubara competition, he got to go to Doha to take part in announcing a special soccer tournament in Qatar held during the holy month of Ramadan. He was promised a chance to join the announcing staff for the local Qatari leagues by Al-Kass.

“Seeing that Gaza’s universities don’t have a sports commentary major, I opted to major in something close to sports commentary,” he said. “I also continued working with Amwaj radio after I joined them back in 2015, and now I am the manager starting this month.”

Muammar said he believes that his high enthusiasm and politeness helped him to be named the manager; he now aims to be as successful as an administrator as he has been as a commentator.

He also underlined the support he had received from his parents — his father, Salem Muammar, whom he considers his “sports adviser,” and his mother, Suad Muammar, who believed in him so much that she got him his first announcing job.

While the young commentator has played soccer at junior levels, joining the Khan Yunis junior club at the age of 10, he hadn’t exactly shown a passion for being on the field, unlike his father, who organized and participated in refugee camp tournaments in the mid-1970s.

“I encouraged him to play soccer since he was a little kid since I didn’t get the chance to play soccer professionally in light of the [Israeli] occupation of the Gaza Strip,” Salem Muammar told Al-Monitor. “There weren’t many clubs or teams to join, but Hesham Muammar did play soccer. However, his true passion lay behind the microphone as a commentator. He would always come to me with questions about soccer players.”

Salem Muammar said he always advised his son to listen to Arab and international sports commentators to learn new ways to engage with the audience.

Suad Muammar told Al-Monitor that Hesham is her youngest son, and that he had demonstrated a distinct ability to speak clearly since he learned to talk. She said his teachers at elementary and intermediate levels predicted he would have a future in broadcasting because of his distinct voice and articulation. “I was proud of him because he had a talent he was trying to show, and I felt it was my duty to support him,” she said.

She added she saw a bright future ahead for her son as he has found people to foster his talents, starting with the managers of sports radio stations.

Haniyeh told Al-Monitor that Hesham Muammar's new position at the Amwaj station could be extended past four months if the young man performs well. “We rotate the managers every four months at the station. All Amwaj employees have a chance to run the station once. The four-month trial period can be extended if needed. I found Hesham to be energized and enthusiastic and deserves a chance to experience this despite his young age and lack of experience.”

Haniyeh added, “I’ve known Hesham since he was 14 years old. He has now become a professional sports commentator. He can have a future in sports commentary and he could compete with [famous] Arab commentators if he continues to improve himself.”

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Found in: Sports

Huda Baroud is a Palestinian journalist working locally and internationally since 2006. She graduated from the Faculty of Information at the Islamic University in 2009. She began her career with the Canadian magazine Al-Watan, published in Arabic, and then worked at the newpaper Filastin. She now works as a freelance journalist. Baroud received the Arab Journalism Award in the youth category from the Dubai Press Club in 2013. She currently focuses on investigative reporting and feature writing.

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