x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A game for everyone

Of course women, too, can be fans of the national football club.

When Majed Hassan netted the game winner for the UAE national football team over Bahrain on Tuesday, his kick set off jubilation among the hundreds of Emirati fans who made the trip to cheer the team on. But it also set in motion a disturbing debate over whether some of those fans - the ones wearing abayas and eyeshadow - had a right to be in the audience at all.

Though some supported the female fans, many did not. "It is sad to see the [UAE Football Association] encourages women to unveil and discard their decency under the flag of supportiveness," one person wrote on Twitter. Said another: "If she wants to support she can do it from home."

For the record, this isn't much of a debate at all. In a nation that has become a model for women's rights and gender equality regionally, suggesting anything less than full equality - in the stands, on the roads, at the office - is utter nonsense.

All UAE residents should be proud of the team's accomplishments on the pitch, this Gulf Cup especially. But the UAE should hold even more dear its accomplishments on social issues, and none more than gender rights. While much work needs to be done in terms of attitudes of individuals, there is no doubt that UAE leads the region by example.

That goes for issues off the pitch as much as on.