Im­pres­sive de­but for first all-Emi­rati fe­male side Al Maha

The National - News - - DUBAI SEVENS SPORT - Paul Radley

Last week, a Fed­eral Na­tional Coun­cil mem­ber said rugby is too “rough” for girls, and that they should take cook­ing classes to be the “per­fect house­wife”.

Clearly, Fa­tima Al Balooshi did not get the memo. Or As­mar Mar­wan. Or any of the girls of the Al Maha team who be­came the first all-Emi­rati fe­male side to com­pete in open com­pe­ti­tion in the 49-year his­tory of the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

They might have lost all three of their pool matches in their de­but in the Gulf Un­der 19 Girls tour­na­ment on Thurs­day. But they were nei­ther over­awed by the oc­ca­sion, nor over­pow­ered by their op­po­si­tion.

They lost only nar­rowly, 1210 to Dubai English Speak­ing School in their first match, with Mar­wan touch­ing down, while Al Balooshi scored a fine con­so­la­tion try in the 15-7 loss to Abu Dhabi French.

“Our gen­der doesn’t re­strict us,” Hessa Salem Al Ha­madi, one of the pi­o­neer­ing Maha play­ers, said.

“Fe­male or male, ev­ery­body can play sports. I think it was un­usual to hear that women have to cook.

“Sports is for ev­ery­body.” And as for it be­ing rough, that is part of the ap­peal. “Rugby is sim­ple – you have to play hard and be tough to win,” Al Ha­madi said.

“It is a fun game be­cause you need heart to play it. As [for­mer Amer­i­can rap­per] 2Pac said: ‘Don’t give up, never give up.’ We are proud of our­selves, and hope­fully we can score more tries and win some games.”

Ameera Ben Fkeeh, the Maha coach, said she hopes this tour­na­ment is just the start for Emi­rati fe­male play­ers.

“These girls need more tour­na­ments to learn and im­prove in rugby,” Fkeeh, a for­mer Tu­nisia in­ter­na­tional, said.

“Slowly, slowly, they have im­proved, and af­ter three years they are far bet­ter. Be­fore, they knew noth­ing about rugby. Now they know the game.”

Sami Smara, the rugby de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer for UAE Rugby, said: “This is the proof that peo­ple are start­ing to be in­ter­ested in rugby, and that par­ents ac­cept it.

“This the first time they have played in the open area of Dubai Sevens, and this is al­ready an achieve­ment.

“We just want for them to learn, en­joy, and com­pete. These girls are role mod­els for other Emi­ratis.”

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