Basketball game strengthens camaraderie at Qatar campus

Lark Turner

With cheering fans, purple stands and a healthy rivalry, a women’s basketball game at Northwestern University in Qatar is not so different from one in Evanston.

NU-Q’s women’s basketball team beat Carnegie Mellon University in the school’s first athletic victory and narrowly lost to Georgetown University Feb. 6., Dean John Margolis said. The team is in its first year, and games have drawn students, faculty and staff to cheer on the Wildcats.

“There is a particular rivalry between Georgetown and Northwestern because of the similar orientation to our programs,” Margolis said. “Many students apply to both institutions.”

NU established its campus in Qatar in fall 2008 in partnership with the Qatar Foundation, which built Education City in Doha, Qatar. Other U.S. campuses in Education City include Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Though the team lost by two points in overtime, team captain Dana Atrach said she couldn’t have asked for a better first season.

“We’ve had a crazy season filled with ups and downs,” the Communication freshman said in an Internet chat. “What amazes me is how quickly we came together as a team.”Atrach said other teams get too caught up with the need to win.

“They lose the meaning of the game,” she said. “That doesn’t happen with us, and it makes me that much more proud to be a Wildcat.”

On the sidelines, the audience was fired up against Georgetown, Communication sophomore Nayaab Shaikh said in an Internet chat.

“In terms of, ‘We gotta kick their ass no matter what,’ it’s Georgetown,” she said. “They play unfair, and they have the most obnoxious crowd ever.”

Custom-made purple foam paws emblazoned with “Go Cats” were ordered for the game, Shaikh said. At one point she said a Georgetown fan grabbed one and mimicked scratching their butt with it. The rivalry didn’t deter the fans, she said.

“Even when NU-Q missed the basket, we were supporting and cheering them on,” Shaikh said. “We all cheered so much we could barely talk the next day.”

Both Georgetown and NU-Q’s basketball teams had talked about the game throughout the year, Atrach said.

“The rivalry built up all season,” she said. “It was very stressful on the court, but I can tell you that was probably the best game we’ve played.”

The fans were still the best part of the game, Atrach said. Students, professors, parents and Dean Margolis attended, she said.

“We had a pep rally before the game to get everyone excited, and it was just great,” Atrach said. “The dean gave us all a pep talk before the game, and then we all paraded to the gym.”

As the campus expands with incoming classes, student activities like basketball will grow too, Margolis said. He said the attendance at the Georgetown game was impressive.”There was just a tremendous showing of students and faculty and staff and just a really surprising display of NU-Q spirit,” Margolis said.

The game was an opportunity for the NU-Q community to come together, Atrach said.”It really felt like we, as NU-Q, established our identity during that game,” she said.Though Atrach said she did not feel very connected to Cats in Evanston, she said she hoped to travel to campus in the future.

“I want to see what the NU-E community is like and bring back what I learn from that experience,” she said. “I would really love for strong connections between NU-Q and NU-E to be established.”[email protected]