Nation's sporting community mourns the death of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa
© Philip Cheung / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – December 2, 2011: HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, attends the Official Ceremony for the UAE’s 40th National Day Anniversary at Zayed Sports Stadium. ( Philip Cheung / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi )

Sporting organisations across the UAE have paid their respects following the death of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa.

All domestic sporting activities throughout the country were called off as part of the official three-day mourning period, which was announced after Sheikh Khalifa passed away at the age of 73 on Friday.

Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said the contributions of Sheikh Khalifa as a visionary leader who established the emirate as a world-class venue for sports will be long remembered.

“The country has lost a great leader and we have lost a father,” he said. “May Allah bless his soul and grant him the highest ranks of paradise.”

Emirati football great Ismail Matar expressed his shock.

“I had the good fortune of meeting him personally when Al Wahda won the league in 1999, and a few times thereafter,” he said. “He was a charismatic leader and his simplicity on that occasion is still fresh in my mind. It remains one of my best football memories. May Allah grant him the highest abode in heaven.”

Sheikh Khalifa was a driving force in promoting the Purebred Arabians globally. He was the main patron of the President of the UAE Cup for Arabian horses, a race series that promoted the breed around the globe.

Faisal Al Rahmani, the director of the race series held every year across Europe, North Africa and the US and now on its 29th year, said Sheikh Khalifa’s contributions in promoting the breed worldwide will be long remembered by the Arabian racing fraternity.

“Sheikh Khalifa was loved by the racing fraternity and will remain as a towering figure in the promotion of the Arabian horse globally,” he said.

Salem Al Ketbi, general manager of Sheikh Khalifa’s Al Asayl Stables in Abu Dhabi, revealed the President took keen interest in promoting the Purebred Arabian horses globally.

“The Arabian horse is part of Arab heritage and culture, and His Highness encouraged his family members and the citizens of the country to be closely associated with either breeding, owning or riding them to keep in touch with the traditions.”

Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation, added: “We have lost a leader who upheld the vision of his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, to ensure the nation’s progress and provide its citizens the best of everything.”

Meanwhile, the UAE Pro League – in coordination of the UAE Football Association – postponed Sunday’s Adnoc Pro League and the Under 21 Pro League matches.

The Pro League match-week 24 has been rescheduled to May 17. The final two rounds of the league will now take place on May 21 and 22, and May 28 and 29, respectively.

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