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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Al Maha make impressive debut as first all-Emirati female side at Dubai Rugby Sevens

Competed in the Gulf Under 19s Girls competition on the opening day of action on Thursday

Last week, a Federal National Council member said rugby is too “rough” for girls, and that they should take cooking classes to be the “perfect housewife”.

Clearly, Fatima Al Balooshi did not get the memo. Or Asmar Marwan. Or any of the girls of the Al Maha team who became the first all-Emirati female side to compete in open competition in the 49-year history of the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

They might have lost all three of their pool matches in their debut in the Gulf Under 19 Girls tournament on Thursday. But they were neither overawed by the occasion, nor overpowered by their opposition.

They lost only narrowly, 12-10 to Dubai English Speaking College in their first match, with Marwan touching down, while Al Balooshi scored a fine consolation try in the 15-7 loss to Abu Dhabi French.

“Our gender doesn’t restrict us,” Hessa Salem Al Hamadi, one of the pioneering Maha players, said.

“Female or male, everybody can play sports. I think it was unusual to hear that women have to cook. Sports is for everybody.”

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And as for it being rough, that is part of the appeal. “Rugby is simple – you have to play hard and be tough to win,” Al Hamadi said.

“It is a fun game because you need heart to play it. As Tupac said: ‘Don’t give up, never give up.’

"We are proud of ourselves, and hopefully we can score more tries and win some games.”

Ameera Ben Fkeeh, the Maha coach, said she hopes this tournament is just the start for Emirati female players.

“These girls need more tournaments to learn and improve in rugby,” Fkeeh, a former Tunisia international, said.

“Slowly, slowly, they have improved, and after three years they are far better. Before, they knew nothing about rugby. Now they know the game.”

Sami Smara, the rugby development officer for UAE Rugby, said: “This is the proof that people are starting to be interested in rugby, and that parents accept it.

“This the first time they have played in the open area of Dubai Sevens, and this is already an achievement. We just want for them to learn, enjoy, and compete. These girls are role models for other Emiratis.”

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