Viewing cable 04MUSCAT2143

04MUSCAT21432004-12-08 13:37:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. ECA Cultural Envoys Omari Faulkner and Courtland Freeman 
engaged a wide range of Omani basketball players, coaches, and 
students during their highly successful four-day visit to the 
Sultanate.  Welcomed by dignitaries including the newly appointed 
Minister of Sports Affairs, the duo established immediate and 
positive connections with audiences of different ages and 
backgrounds, while garnering extensive and positive press 
coverage, particularly in the Arabic press.  End summary. 
A Hit Right From The Opening Tip 
¶2. From November 21-25, 2004, recent Georgetown University 
graduates and current ECA Cultural Envoys Omari Faulkner and 
Courtland Freeman conducted a series of basketball clinics and 
workshops for players and coaches during their visit to the 
Sultanate of Oman.  The visit tipped off with a two-day session 
at the Bausher Club, an up-and-coming athletic association in 
Muscat.  During the opening ceremony, which was attended by the 
Minister of Sports Affairs H.E. Ali al-Sunaidi as well as the 
President of the Bausher Club and other dignitaries, the 
Ambassador delivered remarks highlighting the on-court skills and 
off-court academic achievement and service of the Cultural 
Envoys.  After the opening ceremony, Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Freeman 
discussed with coaches and players the advantages and 
disadvantages of certain defensive and offensive set plays.  This 
was followed by a lively Q&A session that focused on identifying 
strategies for developing successful basketball teams.  Later 
that day, the Envoys conducted a basketball clinic for Bausher 
Club players; the clinic, which was scheduled for 90 minutes, 
continued for over three hours because of high demand.  Ten Omani 
girls participated in the basketball drills, an all-too rare 
sight in a country where the sexes are typically separated during 
sporting activities. 
In The Zone 
¶3. The next morning, the Envoys were treated to a tour of the 
Muscat capital region, courtesy of Bausher Club officials.  The 
tour included a visit to Muscat's Mutrah souq, the Bait al-Zubair 
Museum, and a windshield tour of the Bausher district.  That 
afternoon, the Envoys again directed a series of drills and 
clinics for young Bausher Club members.  Excitement built 
throughout the day as club players awaited a demonstration game 
at the nearby Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, requested 
spontaneously by the Minister of Sports Affairs the previous day. 
Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Freeman played for the Bausher Club team 
against the Muscat Stars, a team made up of players from Oman's 
national squad.  (The Muscat Stars won 64-59.)  After the 
spirited game, the Bausher Club and the Oman Basketball 
Association presented the Envoys with trophies and traditional 
Omani khanjars (ceremonial daggers). 
Fast Break 
¶4. The program continued with a journey to the city of Al- 
Buraimi, about 350 km. northwest of Muscat on the border with the 
UAE.  The Cultural Envoys visited Al-Buraimi College, the site of 
one of Oman's five American Corners, met with the president of 
the college, and toured the facility.  Afterwards the Envoys and 
a busload of Al-Buraimi college students traveled to a nearby 
junior high school where the players held a basketball clinic for 
forty college and junior high students.  An audience of over two 
hundred students observed the clinic.  Although female students 
in this provincial town were reluctant to participate in the 
workshop, they eagerly joined the boys in requesting autographs 
from the Cultural Envoys. 
Iraq Bounces In 
¶5. In many ways the most rewarding portion of the Cultural 
Envoys' trip to Oman was their visit to Al-Buraimi.  The visit 
was a big event for the city, as young people from all over town 
came to the workshop to meet the players.  For many of them this 
was the first time they had met Americans.  During the workshop, 
the PAO was introduced to the dean of Al-Buraimi College and a 
young student, both of whom are Iraqis from Fallujah.  After 
exchanging pleasantries, they said, "We disagree with what you 
Americans are doing in Fallujah, but we respect you for bringing 
high level U.S. athletes to Al-Buraimi.  Most embassies focus on 
Muscat and ignore other towns."  This encounter speaks volumes 
about the effectiveness of the Cultural Envoy program as a tool 
to promote positive public attitudes toward American society and 
values, and to reinforce the Embassy's ties with contacts across 
Courtland And Omari Assist TAISM 
¶6. The student-athletes rounded out their visit with a program at 
The American International School of Muscat (TAISM), a school 
with 360 students from over 30 different countries.  Mr. Faulkner 
and Mr. Freeman addressed the morning assembly, detailing the 
challenges and rewards of pursuing a balance between academics 
and extracurricular activities.  Next, they visited a 9th-grade 
Health class and discussed issues such as the dangers of drug use 
and the importance of setting goals.  After giving an interview 
to the school newspaper, the two players conducted three separate 
basketball clinics for 4th-graders, 5th-graders, and middle 
school students.  The TAISM students reacted positively to the 
Cultural Envoys, viewing them as role models and asking 
enthusiastically for autographs.  The secondary school principal 
praised the Envoys upon their departure, commenting that the two 
young men "had a good message" for TAISM's students.  After 
completing their program at TAISM, the players journeyed to the 
PAO's residence for lunch with selected journalists and editors 
from Oman's press establishment. 
A Full-Court Press For The Media 
¶7. Media coverage of the program was extensive and positive, 
particularly in the Arabic-language press.  The November 22 
editions of the Arabic-language dailies "Al-Shabiba" (estimated 
circulation 30,000) and "Al-Watan" (circulation 40,000) featured 
articles on the opening ceremony at the Bausher Club, complete 
with photographs of the event and of the Cultural Envoys.  The 
English-language newspaper "Oman Daily Observer" (circulation 
20,000) carried a similar article.  On November 23, the Envoys 
hit the trifecta by appearing in all three of the Arabic-language 
dailies, including the government-owned "Oman" (circulation 
38,000).  Both "Oman" and "Al-Shabiba" published quarter-page 
stories about the demonstration game at the Sultan Qaboos Sports 
Complex with large color photographs, as did the "Oman Daily 
Observer."  Finally, on November 25, the "Oman Daily Observer" 
ran a piece about the Cultural Envoy program, with excerpts from 
interviews with Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Freeman. 
A Genuine Slam-Dunk 
¶8. If the pilot program in Oman is any indication, the Cultural 
Envoy project has a bright future indeed.  The level of interest 
shown by Omani youth in the Envoys' activities, combined with the 
universal expressions of goodwill directed towards these talented 
Americans, bodes well for cultural and sports programming in the