An EMirati under-18s girls side will be the first female rugby team to represent the UAE when they take part in the Dubai Rugby Sevens next month. Courtesy: Melissa Lear
Dubai Rugby Sevens: Under 18s the first female team to represent UAE at international level
November 25, 2016 Updated: November 25, 2016 10:51 PM
The UAE will be represented in international competition by Emirati female players for the first time next week.
A newly formed under 18 girls side will take part in a five-team sevens tournament at Dubai Sports City, starting on Thursday.
The final of the competition, which also involves Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong, and Uzbekistan will be played on Pitch 2 at the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Friday.
Asmar Marwan, the team’s leading player, says she is "very excited" by the prospect of representing the UAE in rugby.
The 15-year-old player had grown up hoping she might get the chance to play football for the country one day, and is a big fan of Habib Fardan and Al Ahli.
However, her chance has come instead in rugby, which she fell in love with after an introductory taster session at her school last year.
"Playing rugby makes me happy," said the Dubai schoolgirl. "I like it because it is rough and tough, and I go away and watch it on YouTube and TV."
iven how new to the sport they are, none of the players have any real awareness of the size and scale of the Dubai Rugby Sevens, but they are hopeful they can make the final
"Inshallah we will win, of course it is exciting to have this chance," Marwan said. "This is the first time we have been here. We have never seen the tournament before, and they haven’t told us anything about it, really.
"I have seen it on YouTube, but we really don’t know what to expect. We are just proud and excited to have the chance to represent UAE."
Registering a win, let alone qualifying for the final, will be a fine achievement for a novice side, who have been together for approximately one year.
They only played their first competitive matches at a domestic tournament in Al Ain earlier this month. However, the UAE Rugby Federation are committed to promoting the new side.
In the lead up to the Al Ain tournament, the squad had a three-day training camp, which involving living together in a hostel, and getting a team bus to training twice per day.
The training sessions at The Sevens, Dubai were overseen by three coaches, and a dedicated physiotherapist was on site, too.
"We just want them to learn, to get experience, and to represent the UAE well," said Sami Smara, the UAE rugby development office. "We have no other expectations in terms of performance.
"We are proud to have a first ever Emirati group to play in international competition. The important thing for us is to enjoy the experience.
"For them, they are very motivated and proud to play for their nation. They are enjoying it. They enjoy playing together and they are happy to have this UAE flag on their shirts."
In an attempt to attract more Emirati women to the game, the federation appointed a female rugby development officer earlier this year.
Ameera Ben Fkeeh, a former international for Tunisia, is optimistic about the progress of Emirati girls in rugby.
"When we started, there were just six girls," Ben Fkeeh said. "The group were very small in number. Now it has expanded. We had 27 girls at the training camp. That is good.
"What I like most is that the girls listen. They are here to learn and improve. They are conscious of the fact they are representing the country, and they want to do well because of it."
Ben Fkeeh says she attempted to ease the novice players into rugby by introducing them to touch, the non-contact version of the game, first. However, they protested, and demanded to be taught tackling.
"In the beginning, for safety reasons, I just started with touch rugby," she said. "The girls refused. They immediately asked to play contact, and they enjoyed it more.
"They were always very focused on the fact they were going to be the first group to represent the UAE, and they wanted to do well because of it.
"They want to be like the men, who have represented the UAE national team. They were keen to be the first.
"The smaller players have heart, it is natural to them to battle for it. You can say it is a quality of local people that they have heart.
"Some of the smaller players are some of our best tacklers. They enjoy it."