Prayers and preventions: How these paramedics keep major sports events safe in UAE

Having provided their services to the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2020 and 2021, the T20 World Cup last year, the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, the Formula One Grand Prix at the Capital, RPM’s team was also responsible for emergency medical care at the 2022 Asia Cup in Dubai and Sharjah



The RPM paramedics team at the Asia Cup. — Supplied photo
The RPM paramedics team at the Asia Cup. — Supplied photo
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 11 Sep 2022, 5:22 PM

Last updated: Sun 11 Sep 2022, 5:44 PM

Just like the futile exercise of picking the winner of a T20 contest between two evenly matched teams, it’s also impossible for the best paramedics to predict how things can unfold at mass gatherings in major sports events.

That’s why Haitham Hijaz, a hugely experienced paramedic, begins his day with a prayer and then leads his team to ensure safety of each and every individual at premier sports events.

Hijaz, NR-EMT-Paramedic Chief, Emergency Medical Services, Response Plus Holding PJSC (RPM), says his heart fills with pride for the way his team played its part in the success of major sports events in the UAE, especially after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having provided their services to the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2020 and 2021, the T20 World Cup last year, the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, the Formula One Grand Prix at the Capital, RPM’s team was also responsible for emergency medical care at the 2022 Asia Cup in Dubai and Sharjah.

Haitham Hijaz, NR-EMT-Paramedic Chief, Emergency Medical Services, Response Plus Holding PJSC (RPM). — Supplied photo
Haitham Hijaz, NR-EMT-Paramedic Chief, Emergency Medical Services, Response Plus Holding PJSC (RPM). — Supplied photo

“We have been working very hard and we have gathered a unique team from across the globe to be part of our emergency medical services,” Hijaz tells the Khaleej Times.

“Our team has been trained in sports medicine, we have 10 paramedics in every single match of this Asia Cup and five ambulances. We are responsible not only for the players, but also for the audience. Anybody that is inside the stadium is our responsibility.”

For paramedics, Hijaz says, the key to ensuring a safe event lies in preventive measures.

“You know our prayers are always said in the mornings before we start our ambulances. To go along with the prayers, we also go with something else called prevention,” the Jordanian expat says.

“Whenever we go to an area where there is a mass gathering, we always, before the event starts, try to identify the weak links, the weak areas that could potentially be a source of problem for anybody that is attending.

“So once we identify those areas, we try to solve them before people start arriving for the event.”

Hijaz says nothing can match the joy of helping people in need of urgent medical care.

“I would say that I would not do anything else for a living in my life. It is an unbelievably proud feeling to know that you have been trusted, in providing medical care and urgent care for anybody in need,” he says.

Wise leadership

With its top-notch infrastructure, the UAE has become a global sports hub. This country also salvaged the IPL (in 2020 and 2021) and the T20 World Cup last year after a Covid-stricken India failed to organise those events.

The Asia Cup this year faced the threat of cancellation due to the acute economic crisis in Sri Lanka, the host country.

The UAE rose to the challenge again as it hosted the continent’s biggest cricket tournament on a very short notice.

And Hijaz credits the visionary leaders of the UAE for the country’s rapid surge as an elite sporting destination.

“During Covid crisis, we were very proud to be part of the teams that served the country in terms of doing Civid-19 tests, vaccination or our medical services at major sports events,” he says.

“And we have received unlimited support from the wise leadership of this country during the Covid crisis and even after the Covid crisis. Everybody knows that the decisions that were made by the UAE government, have sped up the recovery process.

“When we started to return to our normal everyday life, other countries across the globe were still in total lockdowns. So no words can describe the gratitude that we owe to the leadership of the UAE for everything they have done.”


More news from Sports