Patience is a virtue but one National Federation is set to reap the rewards after major investment
Jordan is set to become a regional hub for an Olympic Sport which is undergoing an exciting boom time in the Kingdom.
The sport of fencing may be down in the pecking order in terms of mass-participation and popularity, but it has not stopped the Jordan Fencing Federation from undertaking an ambitious long-term plan which is starting to bear fruit.
Earlier this year it opened a new state-of-the-art headquarters in Al Hussein Youth Sports City which is transforming the sport from an elitist past time to a popular alternative for the nation’s young.
"We have noticed an immediate boost in terms of interest and numbers now taking part,” said Dr. Khaled Atiyat, President of the Jordan Fencing Federation. "It has been a long time coming but we are delighted with the response to the new facility which we believe is now the best across the whole Arab World.”
And it is clear to see why he is happy. When the Jordan Olympic Committee visited on a cold Wednesday evening, there were dozens of participants from the age of six up to 50, all enjoying top notch guidance from coaches who have been brought up to international standards
"We used to have a facility with two piste (playing areas) but now we have 20, along with ample room for warm up and exercising. It has transformed the sport in Jordan with more than 200 people now practicing regularly.”
Particularly pleasing for the Federation has been the early interest from schools with two now sending students to play on weekday mornings. This number is set to expand. It has also benefited from the hostel built as a part of the facility which is proving attractive for overseas teams looking to camp, providing a vital source of additional revenue along with the cafeteria where parents gather to await their kids.
But rather than expect Olympic champions immediately, the Federation has continued its slow but sure approach to nurturing the sport.
"It has taken us seven years to reach this point,” explained Dr Khaled. "We set aside a little of our budget each year and along with excellent support from institutions including the Jordan Olympic Committee, we were finally able to build this facility.
"It has given us the platform from which to build on. We are realistic that it will take a long time to produce champions but we are working with the best fencing nations, like the Italians, to develop our sport here.”
The Italian link could result in three of their coaches dispatched to Jordan next year to work with the local coaches who have already benefited from the Jordan Olympic Committee’s National Coaching Certification Programme.
Listening to Dr. Khaled’s enthusiasm whilst watching the dedication and effort put in by those attending training instills a confidence that this is a sport going places. And 2015 looks like being a busy year for the Federation, and the facility.
"We have several big events happening here throughout the year. These are events we wouldn’t have been able to host previously,” he said. "These include a one-week international training camp which will feature world champions and Olympic medalists; Two Arab Junior and Cadet Championships as well as an international tournament for the same ages; a West Asian Senior Competition as well as an FIE training course for up to three months featuring coaches and trainers from across the region. It will be a busy time for the sport which is what we want.
"There is not better facility in the region and we want to make Amman the fencing hub for the Arab World.”
With a clear focus on grass roots development and identifying and training the next generation of champions, it is clear to see that fencing is in it for the long run.
Kevin Costner was told in that memorable film Field of Dreams that "If you build it, they will come” and the best ending to this adventure would be a Jordanian success at a future major international event. Now that would be a story worth following.