Conflicts & War

Group workouts in Sana’a park offer Yemenis psychological reprieve from war

Sana’a, Oct 20 (EFE).- More than 200 Yemenis of all ages gather daily at a public park in the capital Sana’a to do joint exercises as a way to keep fit and relieve the psychological stresses brought on by years of war.

The participants of the Swedish exercise classes, a system that involves light gymnastics, stretches and calisthenics, set out an hour before sunset to make it to Al-Thawra park in time to start warming up for the workout.

A teacher and a number of assistants are on hand to guide them through the different drills.

The group, which goes by the name Ahsen Fariq, or “Best Team” in English, barely attracted a handful of people when it first launched three years ago but its popularity has since skyrocketed.

“Now there are between 200 and 250 class members, who include engineers, academics, doctors, retired army and security officers, and students,” one of Best Team’s assistants, Najeeb Al-Qirsh, 34, told Efe-Epa.

“The group aims to spread the culture of sports to all and help relieve the daily psychological pressures that most people suffer from due to the effects of war in the country,” he added.

“I was a football player for a local club, but the war paralyzed sporting activity. Now I perform these Swedish exercises daily, which I had not heard of before.”

Sports photographer Abdul-Aziz Omar, 62, also lost his job due to the war that erupted in Yemen in 2015. He spent four years away from sporting activity until he came across the Best Team classes, which he described as “unique in Yemen.”

As a photographer, Omar covered the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea.

“I wanted to cover the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but the blockade imposed on Yemen and the closure of Sana’a airport prevented that. It frustrated me.

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