By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: Kuwaiti athletes are developing and executing new skills. Kuwait Times spoke with Lujain Al-Mulla, captain of ‘Pampered Cats’, a Kuwaiti ultimate frisbee team, to learn more about the sport.
Kuwait Times: Tell us more about yourself.
Lujain Al-Mulla: I have been playing ultimate frisbee for four years. It became serious at the end of 2020, when a seasoned player from Colombia, Christian Varon, moved to Kuwait and began training the community on a more advanced level. My team formed officially at the beginning of 2021 after winning as an unofficial team in a local league. After consistent training, we built a lineup we could send internationally to play in our first regional tournament at the end of 2021. Since then, we have continued to train and take part in regional tournaments both as a team and individually.
KT: What is ultimate frisbee?
Al-Mulla: Ultimate Frisbee is a team sport played worldwide. It is familiar in that it is played on a field the size of a football pitch with two end-zones marked by horizontal lines that span across the field at each end; there are seven against seven players on the field, with players having to pivot around one leg when they have possession of the disc.
The game aims to pass the frisbee down the field until a player receives it inside the opponent’s endzone; that’s how a point is scored. The sport has three divisions, which are mixed, women’s, and open (the latter is predominantly a men’s division), with Middle Eastern clubs playing exclusively in the mixed division. The sport was not always steadily practiced in Kuwait and has only been played on a serious level since 2020.
KT: What tournament did you participate in?
Al-Mulla: Pampered Cats participated in the Middle East North Africa Championships both in 2021 and in November 2022, winning first place in only our second participation in the biggest regional tournament, one which hosted 16 teams from across the Middle East and was held this year in Jeddah. The victory was one we had dreamed of the entire year we’d been preparing for it with consistent training and hard work. After placing 7th last year in our first MENA Championships and winning the Spirit of the Game Award, we were hungry for the podium win that we finally achieved this year.
KT: Do you find the needed support for the game in Kuwait?
Al-Mulla: Unfortunately, we are not supported at all locally, which is a great shame. We have faced issues finding appropriate fields to train on since we are a mixed team, and due to the lack of official recognition of the sport in Kuwait.
KT: What was the biggest challenge in building a Kuwaiti national team?
Al-Mulla: Due to the lack of recognition of the sport, we cannot put together a national team, so we represent Kuwait as an independent club made up of both Kuwaitis and expatriates. One of the biggest challenges we face is finding women to join and commit to the sport — especially Kuwaiti women. We provide weekly, free community training, and I train women at the Gulf University for Science and Technology with a very minimal female turnout. This is a challenge we are currently struggling with, and we hope that more exposure to our team and sport can encourage more female interest and participation.
KT: What are the players’ experiences with this kind of sport?
Al-Mulla: Locally, most players have now played regionally in the Middle East North Africa Championships and the Egypt Open. I’ve also had the opportunity to play in the Spanish Nationals with a team from Mallorca, in the US Nationals with a master’s team from Texas, and in one of the world’s biggest ultimate frisbee tournaments in Amsterdam with team Ultimate Palestine. Besides these tournaments, we try to put together local tournaments, but it is difficult with the limited number of local teams.
KT: While preparing for a game, do you emphasize athletic preparation?
Al-Mulla: Year-round, Pampered Cats train up to three times a week. This includes one day a week of intensive physical training to improve our stamina, agility, speed and overall physical performance. This training, both physical and technical, is led by our incredible team coach, Christian Varon, who has helped prepare us for the physicality of playing on the international stage.
KT: Are there any long-term goals or plans for the future?
Al-Mulla: Our upcoming goal, now that we have won the biggest regional tournament, is to get Pampered Cats in more international championships. There are many amazing tournaments around the world that we have our hearts set on, and we are hoping we catch the eye of a sponsor that can help us achieve these aspirations.
Pampered Cats’ long-term plans include recruiting more young people who can keep this sport alive in Kuwait. We want to reach out to schools and universities and harness the energy of the youth in a sport virtually untapped in Kuwait — one that can open many doors and opportunities for Kuwait’s young athletes to excel up to the international level. I welcome any young women reading this to reach out to me about the women’s-only training that I am holding for free every week. I also invite young men to contact Pampered Cats and be a part of the mixed team’s training. We have a great foundational structure to get anyone new to the sport of ultimate started.
KT: Your last message to our readers.
Al-Mulla: You do not need to be an established athlete to play ultimate frisbee; you just need the right spirit!