Hamda Waleed (center) makes a run through the Uzbekistan defense during the under 18 Girls International Tournament. Victor Besa for The National
Under-18 female team ‘very proud’ to represent UAE after eye-opening welcome to international rugby
A pioneering team of Emirati female players ended their first day in international competition bloodied on the scoreboard, bruised on the body, but unyielding in their desire to progress as rugby players.
The rookie UAE team were soundly beaten by Uzbekistan, Hong Kong and India on a tough first day of an Under 18 tournament at Dubai Sports City.
The two finalists of the competition will get to face each other on Pitch 2 at The Sevens on Friday afternoon.
After their first day struggles, that fate will now be beyond the Emirati side, who finish their debut tournament by playing Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka on Thursday afternoon.
owever, the team, who were watched on the sidelines by the recently-elected UAE Rugby Federation chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum Al Juma Maktoum, were thrilled by the opportunity they had had.
"I was a little nervous because it was our first time playing, but it was cool," Maitha Al Zaabi, a UAE forward, said. "We had a lot of fun. We are very proud that we have our names representing our country."
Al Zaabi, 16, was one of the players wearing a specially designed playing shirt that incorporated a red headscarf, with a UAE flag emblazoned on the side.
She said the standard of the opposition players had shown the UAE team what they need to do to improve.
"We need to practice more, and we need more fast girls," Al Zaabi said. "We saw the other teams were a lot faster than us, so that has to be our target.
"We have only been playing as a team for three months. The other teams have been doing this for more than one year, so of course they have more experience than us. I think we can be the best if we get more experience of playing."
According to Sami Smara, the UAE Rugby Federation development officer, the Emirati girls need more matches if they are going to progress.
"We are all happy with what they did," Smara said. "When they first started playing, they were all together on the ball.
"Now we can see them using space, understanding the game and the rules more. There has been a lot of progress, they just need more time and competition.
"They play from the heart. They are not scared in contact. It is just a few things we need to improve on in terms of understanding."