x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

National ambition is no longer a pipe dream to for Hassan Al Asmawi

Student Athlete of the Week The Rugby World Cup has inspired a Yasmina pupil to train his focus on playing the oval-ball game for UAE one day.

Hassan Al Asmawi has interests in football and wrestling, but is passionate about rugby.
Hassan Al Asmawi has interests in football and wrestling, but is passionate about rugby.

Given the UAE's modest appearance record at World Cups to date, the idea of picking another team to support at global showpiece events is not a new one.

When the Rugby World Cup was being played in New Zealand earlier this year, Hassan Al Asmawi decided to support the All Blacks, the eventual champions, on account of the fact that a neighbour on his compound was from the host country.

But he was only changing his colours temporarily.

As one of a raft of Emirati pupils who have taken to the game at Yasmina School in Abu Dhabi, he has his heart set on representing his own nation one day.

"After watching the World Cup, I was thinking, 'Wow, all these people are playing rugby for their country'," Al Asmawi, 16, said.

"It may sound stupid now, but my dream was to play for the UAE rugby team, and get rugby across the UAE and the Middle East, because not many people play the game."

Since the new national team replaced the Arabian Gulf in international competition at the start of this year, his ambition can no longer be considered a pipe dream.

He has the requisite toughness. He also had interests in football and wrestling, so he thought, which sport combines the best of both?

Not that his decision to take up a game, which is still alien to most Emirati families, has been universally well received at home.

"My father doesn't think I should play rugby," he said. "He thinks it is a really violent sport and that I will get hurt.

"My mum encourages me because she wants me to be more outgoing and adventurous in the things I do, whereas my dad wants me to stick to football.

"But I never enjoyed football so much."

Al Asmawi has been playing rugby for two years, and terms the moment he scored a try in his first match the highlight of his sporting life to date. "It was a better feeling than scoring goals when I played football, or blocking shots when I used to play football," he said.

"It was the greatest thing I have done in sport."

Al Asmawi, who plays in the second row for his Yasmina team, does have an affiliation to Abu Dhabi Harlequins, although he says that he has had to limit his involvement at the club to concentrate on his studies lately.

Matthew Morris, the physical education master at Yasmina, believes the school is starting to produce a steady supply of Emirati talent in the oval-ball game.

"They are gaining knowledge because of the good experience they get in school, and outside school with their club side, Abu Dhabi Harlequins," he said.


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