There are renowned football players in every emirate across the UAE.
The players who excel are regarded by their fans as national heroes.
These heroes generate a lot of business and income in the form of advertisements and sponsorships for the teams or clubs for which they play.
In and of itself, this does not cause harm. However, many argue there should be a limit to the acknowledgement of such accomplishments. For every star athlete, there are numerous Emiratis whose intelligence and achievements in science and research are just as impressive, if not more so. However, no marching band follows them, no singers chorus their success, and few news reporters and talk shows are dedicated to following their latest achievements.
In the United States many star athletes accept admission offers from colleges that, academically, they have no right to attend. Meanwhile, qualified and intelligent students are turned down at the same institutions. Athletics are important to universities' finances. One successful sports team can fund all of an institution's activities, sometimes even supporting hundreds or thousands of community members. Promoting sports for fun and for financial support is perfectly justified. The main issue is lionising athletes.
This problem became clearer when I examined mainstream Emirati life. Ask some young Emirati sports fans who scored the most goals in the UAE's Etisalat Cup last season. Chances are they will know the answer. But then ask them to name a leading Emirati doctor and most will not have a clue.
Emiratis have a right to choose their favourite activities, whether they be watching football or attending a science conference. Undoubtedly, watching a football match, with the cheers and chants of the crowd, is much more enjoyable than attending a discussion about a scientific discovery that would help find a cure for cancer. Businessmen and corporations know this, and as a result, sports gain more attention, media coverage and sponsorship than worthy alternatives.
The impact of this trend is far-reaching and heavily embedded in our young generation's lives. But could there be a way to turn back the clock or perhaps emphasise other achievements just as much as sports and athletes?
I believe the situation can be lessened, but never eliminated. It does not make sense, nor is it fair, to wipe sports philosophy out of existence. However, a balance is needed.
Certain measures could turn the relationship between athletics and academics into a mutually beneficial one. With the tremendous revenue generated from advertisements and sponsorship for football teams and sports clubs, a dedicated portion could be given to support the research of Emirati innovators and scholars. This would count as a tribute or a social responsibility by the team. A win-win situation for both parties. The team would be more socially responsible, and perhaps be a contributing factor to a break-through discovery.
Scientific discoveries, small business ventures, and new innovations by Emiratis could generate a great deal of income for the country - a new source of revenue. Emirati youth are the country's greatest asset. Our leaders believe that, and are pioneers to provide all kinds of support for Emiratis, regardless of the fields they excel in. However, support from different entities is also needed.
If the same amount of media attention and sponsorship given to sports was dedicated to other academic and scientific fields, we would excel greatly and perhaps change the world.
To better our society, we must be willing to initiate these changes and carry them through, and there is no better time to start affecting the future than the present.
Manar Al Hinai is an Emirati fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai