It’s more than 7,300 miles from the sandy white beaches of North Carolina to the striking skyline of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, but for UNCW graduate and avid Seahawk fan Haitham Behbehani, the considerable distance doesn’t really matter.
Behbehani works as a corporate credit officer for the Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait’s office in the bustling capital city of 2.33 million nestled along the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula. With the help of www.UNCWsports.com and the Seahawk Digital Network, Behbehani stays in touch with his favorite college team from halfway across the world.
“We miss North Carolina and hope to get back there someday,” Behbehani said via telephone. “We’ve been here since 2011 and are actually trying to transition to the states now.”
The 30-year-old Behbehani was raised in Kuwait before moving to North Carolina to attend Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines. Following a short high school baseball career, he landed at UNCW, where he and his wife, the former Jennifer Britt, met as students in the Cameron School of Business.
Behbehani completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information Systems and International Business in 2009. Jennifer, who served as president of the SIMS club, completed her degree one year earlier.
“The whole plan was to move back to Kuwait to start a career,” said Behbehani. “I got accepted to a training program with the Central Bank of Kuwait and moved to Abu Dhabi in July of 2011.”
“We have a lot of fond memories there,” said Behbehani of his time at UNCW. “One that stands out is the first baseball game I attended against Fordham. We were down by seven runs and had a miraculous comeback by plating eight runs – four in the eighth inning and four in the ninth inning. It was an amazing game.
“As a student, I hardly missed a game. Brooks Field was a special place for me. I had a close-knit group of friends, and we all have a lot of great memories there.”
Since then, Behbehani has been hooked. He attended as many baseball and basketball games as he possibly could, especially savoring UNCW’s remarkable 15-11 comeback baseball victory over Elon in the 2008 NCAA Regional at the USA Baseball Complex near Cary.
Behbehani gets his UNCW fix now with a big assist from the Seahawk Digital Network.
“Basketball season puts me in bad shape for work the next day,” Behbehani explained. “I’ll follow anything that’s related to UNCW.”
Abu Dhabi sits nine hours ahead in the time zone and the avid Seahawk fan often finds himself listening and watching games on his computer in the wee hours of the morning. Still, from a long distance, Behbehani has kept up with recent changes in UNCW Athletics. He’s confident the athletic program is trending upward , with its best years still ahead.
“I definitely like the direction it’s going in now,” he said. “I love the new logo. I liked the old one because of its distinctive look, but the new logo was something we needed. It’s a bird with an attitude.”
In its first full year, through a collaboration between web provider SIDEARM Sports and streaming specialist Stretch Internet, UNCW athletic officials streamed – either via audio or video – 175 athletic events on UNCWSports.com, all free of charge via the Seahawk Digital Network.
UNCW’s baseball game vs. North Carolina on April 22 drew the largest on-line audience of the year, attracting 2,250 fans to the newly launched network. The men’s basketball team’s 74-54 win over James Madison on Feb. 25 ranked second with 1,648 fans and UNCW’s NCAA Tournament clash with Bucknell on Nov. 20 at the UNCW Soccer Stadium ranked third at 1,261.