ABU DHABI // Footballers from the UAE national team took time off from training on Monday to strike at another important goal - cleaning up the Corniche. A group of them, including the Al Wahda striker Ismail Matar, runner-up in last year's Asian Footballer of the Year award, cleared plastic bottles, aluminium cans and cigarette butts from a 1km-long stretch of the public beach. In two hours, 185kg of rubbish were collected and separated for recycling in the first clean-up of its kind on the public beach, which was opened in July last year. Saleh Obaid, Matar's national teammate and captain of Al Jazeera club, said it was important for people to look after the country. "It is nothing for us to come and clean the beach. We should be more active with things like this because it is very important to look after the beach not only for ourselves but for the image of the country. If visitors come and see our new beach dirty then they will think we don't care about it. It should be clean and shiny."
The clean-up was part of a project called One Abu Dhabi ... Let's Keep It Clean launched by Zayed University students and sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to raise awareness about littering. Aref al Awani, the director of sport care programmes at the council, said the footballers were fulfilling their responsibility to the community. "People look up to these players as role models," he said. "So when they come to the beach and clean we hope it will have an effect on kids and stop them dropping litter in the future." The idea from the project came after three students walked along the Corniche and were shocked by the amount of rubbish on the beach. The girls - Fakhra al Mansoori, Noora al Amimi and Hind Khouri - who are in their final year of their public relations course, decided to focus their last assignment, a community project, on the problem of litter.
"We picked the beach as a symbol to represent the wider problem. Whether it is the beach, the park or the university campus we want people to be aware that they have to pick up after themselves," said Ms al Mansoori. "We are lucky to have grown up here after the country was formed and many of us are used to having maids and nannies but they can't do everything. We need to look after ourselves." Ms al Amimi said they wanted to get their message across particularly to Emirati women. "There are some women who depend on cleaners for everything so they don't mind dropping rubbish, because they know someone will come and pick it up after them. But what if we didn't have those people to help us? We want them to learn that it is important to clean their own mess and to pass that habit on to their children."
After the rubbish was collected, Mr al Awani unveiled a small statue in the family section of the beach which will remind to visitors not to litter. The triangular glass statue is filled with empty plastic bottles, cans and polystyrene cups to represent the litter that the collectors picked up. email@example.com