Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

UAE's Nora Saeed on the fast track to success in the world of Muay Thai refereeing

Emirati woman targets next year's World Championship in Abu Dhabi, less than six months after starting her adventure in the sport

Nora Saeed says her confidence as a Muay Thai referee is growing all the time. Ruel Pableo for The National
Nora Saeed says her confidence as a Muay Thai referee is growing all the time. Ruel Pableo for The National

If Nora Saeed is given the chance to referee at the 2020 World Muay Thai Championship in Abu Dhabi next summer, it would seal a remarkable 12 months for the Emirati.

Less than six months ago, by her own admission, Nora "didn’t know anything about Muay Thai" and it was only after encouragement of a colleague at work that she began her journey in the sport.

Nora, 33, was on the fast track from the moment she registered herself for a Muay Thai referees and judges course conducted by the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) in Turkey in October.

It took just over two months for Nora – along with her colleague at the Abu Dhabi Police Traffic Department, Mira Mohammed – to become the first two Emirati female referees to officiate at the IFMA Asian Championship in Abu Dhabi.

Having completed the course in October, Nora went straight to referee a domestic age group competition for juniors.

The next was a big step up in the Arab Championship a few days later followed by the IFMA Asian Championship from December 17-21, both in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE Muay Thai and Kickboxing Federation were on a similar fast track after their formation in 2017.

The federation quickly assembled a national team and made a successful debut at the 2018 IFMA World Championship in Mexico, returning with a gold, silver and bronze.

The Asian Championship was staged in Abu Dhabi for the first time and, following that success, the capital city won the bid from Ankara, Moscow and Bangkok to host the IFMA World Championship in May and June 2020.

“It’s a remarkable achievement considering that our federation was founded only two years ago,” Nora said. “My progress as a referee has been similar.

"The federation sent a circular to our department asking Emirati females who were interested to follow a Muay Thai referees and judges course to register with them,” she said.

Nora was encouraged by Mira to register for the course. So began her new adventure in martial arts.

“I didn’t know anything about Muay Thai but Mira insisted me to give it a try,” Nora said. “I loved the idea and loved it even more as I learnt the martial art sport. I logged on to YouTube and watched the fights. It became a daily routine and I was learning the rules of Muay Thai.

Emirati referee Nora Saeed, centre, at the IFMA Asian Championship. Ruel Pableo for The National
Emirati referee Nora Saeed, centre, at the IFMA Asian Championship. Ruel Pableo for The National

“Our federation helped us by taking us to the team training sessions and educated us of the rules and laws of Muay Thai so much so we had a good idea of what it was all about when we attended the referees’ course.

“There were many girls registered but they dropped out one by one until five were left, and only two succeeded to pass out as qualified referees."

Employed in the Traffic Department for 13 years, Nora knew a thing or two about enforcing the law. She was also a sharp shooter competing in the domestic competitions.

“I did a few sports during my growing up days and that was purely for fun,” she said. “I did compete in the domestic pistol shooting competitions. So getting into combat sport as a referee wasn’t a hard decision.

“I had a few butterflies in the stomach when I first got into the ring in the Asian Championship but that was only until the fights started. Thereafter, I was fully absorbed in my role as a referee.

“Being nervous first time on the big stage was quite natural for anyone. I got to officiate across all five days in the championship, and my confidence grew each passing day.”

Having officiated in the continental championship, Nora is now excitedly waiting for the opportunity to officiate in the World Championship in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m very fortunate for what I have achieved in the last two months,” she said. “It is not only my own accomplishments but it's about bringing honour to the country. Now I’m eagerly looking forward to the World Championship.”

Updated: December 31, 2019 03:57 PM

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