ABU DHABI // Sports professionals yesterday added to calls on the Government to spend more money on harnessing the potential of young Emirati athletes. They said better funding was essential and extra facilities should be provided to train the new generation of Emirati sportsmen and women. Their pleas followed an appeal to the Federal National Council (FNC) on Wednesday from sport officials demanding more money and backing to help the UAE win international competitions.
Members of the FNC's education, youth, media and culture committee said during the meeting that they had been unaware of the scale of the problems described by the nation's sport organisations. The technical director of the Dubai-based UAE Tennis Association, Slah Bramly, called yesterday for a more cohesive structure to allow coaches to spot and nurture potential in young sportspeople. "The country is producing some good, successful young players but what we lack is a system to develop the skills of these young people," he said.
"We need centres where we can develop and detect the players who have real potential and train them to compete and win internationally." Too many independent tennis coaching groups failed to work cohesively with his association, he said. Adil Khalid, the Emirati sailing champion, praised the Government's present efforts but said more money had to be pushed into sailing and other sport if the UAE was to achieve international success.
"There must be more financial support from the Government if we are to win medals at events like the Olympics," said Khalid, 20, who competed in the Beijing Games last year. "We are a not a poor country and the Government needs to do even more to support sport here. "In Europe they spend millions providing sports facilities and on developing young talent. "Too much money here goes to funding football. There should be more money for other sport like sailing and rowing."
Jamie Cunningham, the managing director of Professional Sports Group, an Abu Dhabi-based sport marketing firm that also has offices in the UK, said steady funding and good organisation were crucial to developing sporting talent. "There is no question that in Britain, sport benefited hugely from the funding which came from the National Lottery," he said. "It allowed for the construction of sports facilities, some of which are among the best in the world, and the development of new talent.
"The facilities widen the talent base, which improves a country's chance of achieving success internationally." He agreed that there appeared to be a breakdown in the infrastructure intended to support up-and-coming Emirati sportspeople. "For the UAE, they have to put together a plan which involves government bodies working alongside the sport associations to construct the facilities they need," he said.
Taleb al Muhairi, secretary general of the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation, echoed the need for a more structured training system in the UAE but said his sport was not lacking money. "We need more competitions for riders to take part in and a greater focus on training young riders," he said. "A lot of people enjoy riding but what we need to do is transform these riders into international competitors.
"It is not a matter of a lack of funding. It is a lack of a comprehensive strategy on how to develop and train riders to become world-class. "We have a big number of showjumping and endurance riders but we need to create more competitions to develop their abilities." Jan Naylor, 40, who is originally from Shropshire in the United Kingdom and now lives in Abu Dhabi, said she had considered leaving the UAE because of the lack of swimming facilities to develop the potential of her 12-year-old daughter, Fay.
"We used to have to drive to Dubai so we could use the pool there but the travel there and back was very time-consuming. "To compete as a swimmer, you need to be in the water for at least 12 hours a week plus land training. "We tried it for three months but there was just not the time in the week. "It is a shame that Fay is going to lose out on the opportunity to progress with her talent." firstname.lastname@example.org