KOTA KINABALU: Sabah had definitely made an impact on the 80 local and foreign participants of the international second Borneo Headhunters Hat based on the sentiments and feedback received.
Sabah’s annual Ultimate Frisbee tournament was attended by participants from around the world, including England, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland and the USA, with many vowing to return to Sabah to see more of its offerings including Mount Kinabalu, the Kinabatangan River and diving in Sipadan.
The one-day tournament was held on Saturday at Sekolah Menengah La Salle, and saw many first-timers to Sabah.
“We planned our holiday to Sabah around it,” said Lucas Tschuor and Prisca Mattanza, a couple from Switzerland who flew to Sabah to attend the tournament before moving on to Singapore.
The couple flew in especially for the tournament for the weekend but vowed to return to Sabah and visit more of the well-known sights and get to know the culture better.
Canadians Patrick and Tara Macmaster also flew in for the weekend, especially for the tournament but Patrick, a teacher based in Kuala Lumpur, could not play due to injury on his knee.
“We were so disappointed but at least we could still come and enjoy the weekend,” he said.
Chris Khoo, an Ultimate player from Melbourne, Australia on his way to study in Germany, decided to stop in Kota Kinabalu to attend the tournament first.
“I’ve visited the tourist attractions before, so this time I’m only here for the Ultimate, but it was well worth the effort,” said Chris who has been here a week.
Bruneian Radzi Adnan is on his second visit to Sabah, this time bringing with him a group of friends, both to participate and to cheer.
“We were so impressed with the tournament and Sabah last year that we decided to come back and bring more friends this year,” he said.
Radzi and his friends came earlier in the week to do their shopping and sightseeing before returning home today.
Some 21 college students from Curtin University in Miri, came to play in the tournament and planned an adventure-packed itinerary, including white-water rafting and climbing up Mount Kinabalu.
This year’s tournament saw an increase in participants from 36 last year to 80 people this year with many more foreign participants.
Ultimate is a fast-paced, action packed game, which combines the best elements from other sports like soccer, netball and American football.
Popular in North America since the 70’s, the very accessible game is fast growing in Asia, which features at least one tournament somewhere in the region every month.
“Not all our players have the time and resources to fly to international tournaments, so the Headhunters Hat gives exposure to the local players by bring international players, plus their skills and knowledge, to Sabah,” said tournament director Jaco Swanepoel.
“To improve your level of play it is important to get international exposure, so that you can grow your knowledge and up your game.”
To entice players from outside of Sabah, the tournament organisers teamed up with Imperial International Hotel and Borneo Beachouse Backpackers for special, discounted accommodation rates.
“Our tournament has grown more than 200% over last year, which we achieved through marketing at other tournaments we attended and discounted accommodation for our players” said Jaco.
Sponsors such as Core Fitness, Imperial International Hotels and Mega Tec Consolidation also reduced the fees charged to players, making marketing the tournament easier.
Sabah-based players had attended tournaments in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore recently.
“We always talk about Sabah, why people should come here, how friendly people are, and about our tournament, of course.” said Jaco.
The Borneo Headhunters Hat is one of the tournaments in the region where you can sign up as an individual. The format of the tournament divides individuals into new teams.
The five new teams, each wearing distinctive coloured shirts, played each other, and the winners were determined in a big final.
“Blue Wave was this year’s winner, but the teams were pretty evenly balanced, as you can tell from the final score, which was a very 9–8,” said Jaco.
The white shirt team, named Mat Sallehs, won the Spirit Award for best conduct and being the most fun team to play against.
Jaco emphasized that good spirit and fun is the defining qualities of a good Ultimate tournament, “because that’s what will bring the players back and grow participation.”
Sporting individuals in Kota Kinabalu of any age and ability can join any of the weekly games. On Tuesdays and Thursday at First Beach Tanjung Aru from 6.30pm–8.pm, and at Tanjung Aru Rugby Field on Sundays, from 4pm-6pm.
More information is available at SabahUltimate.com.