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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

'No Wi-Fi' group encouraging residents to switch onto sport

Growing Dubai organisation is proving a hit 

Mafi Wifi is encouraging people to switch off their phones and get active. Leslie Pableo for The National
Mafi Wifi is encouraging people to switch off their phones and get active. Leslie Pableo for The National

A team of good sports are making a social connection - by encouraging UAE residents to go offline and get out and about.

Dubai's Mafi Wi-Fi group was set up last March with the aim of encouraging people who are just as happy surfing waves as they are the web.

The initiative has already netted impressive results, with dozens of people shaking off their sedentary lives to get fighting fit.

Wearing T-shirts bearing a no Wi-Fi symbol, group members can often be seen running marathons, navigating their way through obstacle courses or simply playing sport for for the fun of it outside.

Members regularly take part in obstacle courses - and sparking interest in their efforts has proved no obstacle at all.

The group has proudly adopted the slogan "our connection is stronger than Wi-Fi".

The idea for the group was born when one of the founders was appointed as a brand ambassador for the Old School Challenge obstacle race in Ajman.

“I was planning to go to the race myself, and then the organizers asked me to become ambassador for the event, so I put a group together with my husband Mohammed and my friend Dana Ibrahim,” said Lolla Todorovic, a sports physiotherapist and rescue diver.

Mafi Wifi members are encouraging people to swing on by and get fighting fit.  Leslie Pableo for The National
Mafi Wifi members are encouraging people to swing on by and get fighting fit.  Leslie Pableo for The National

“We had to come up with a name, so we thought let’s put up something old school and before Wi-Fi.”

Mafi Wi-Fi - which means no Wi-Fi in Arabic - swiftly grew in popularity through word-of-mouth and through social media itself as people spotted their Instagram posts.

“We have around 50 people in the group with all fitness levels from champions to beginners,” said Ms Todorovic.

Now that the long summer is over, Mafi Wi-Fi has plans to go global.

Members of the team will be participating in the Spartan World Championship in Greece on November 2 and 3, and the Spartan Hatta race on November 16.

“Also the ladies of Mafi Wi-Fi, we will participate in the women’s only Spartan race in Jebel Ali on October 27.”

For the latest fun activity, Ms Todorovic and five other members gathered at the Skydive Calisthenics park to try out the facilities.

Lolla Todorovic get to grips with a workout at Skydive Dubai.  Leslie Pableo for The National
Lolla Todorovic get to grips with a workout at Skydive Dubai.  Leslie Pableo for The National

“We are more focused on the fun side of obstacle course races (OCR), because it can be too tough and aggressive, so we are the fun part,” said Mohammad Kaddoura, co-founder of the group.

The group aren't totally opposed to the internet, of course, using Instagram to help foster a sense of community and to capture their achievements.

“After one of the races we had many pics as a team, but there was a total of 25 (Mafi Wi-Fi) members in the race and some of them could not finish the same time, so they were missing in the group photo, so we started the hashtag ‘walla I was there but did not make it to the photo’,” said Mr Kaddoura.

“We are promoting the social gathering of like-minded people, to enjoy our time together whether we go out for food, nights out or bowling.”

“Anyone can join, even from other OCR teams, in fact half of our team is from other OCR teams,” said the 38-year-old executive director from Lebanon.

“They like us because of the social bonding and because we are promoting healthy living in Dubai.”

Yamen Al Halabi, a triathlon athlete and former member of the Syrian national swimming team for eight years, was running a race when he ran into Mafi Wi-Fi members and joined their team.

Ahmad Al Junaibi is part of the Mafi Wi-Fi group encouraging the public to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Leslie Pableo for The National
Ahmad Al Junaibi is part of the Mafi Wi-Fi group encouraging the public to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Leslie Pableo for The National

It was a chance encounter that he will never forget - as he met his wife at the get-togethers.

“I saw the Mafi Wi-Fi logo and started talking to them. Then I became a member of the team and I met my wife there,” said the 28-year-old.

“I liked their concept because it is very simple and not commercial.

“It is fun and not just about obstacle course races, we have a social life together too.”

Similarly, Ahmad Al Junaibi joined Mafi Wi-Fi after meeting them at a race last April.

“We sat and talked, then Mohammed (Kaddoura) took off his shirt and gave it to me and said ‘walla, you are one of us’,” said the 20-year-old Emirati.

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Read more:

Phone addiction: we are more connected than ever, but at what cost?

Dubai schools looking out for screen time addiction in pupils

Space invaders: our addiction to smartphones

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