x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Women find a sporting choice in UAE

In the past five years, there has been a great change in the attitudes of families and Emirati women themselves when it comes to trying their hand at various kinds of sports.

Marriage and sports that require revealing clothes have been obstacles to Emirati female athletes.

"We don't have Emirati women taking up swimming, tennis and gymnastics," says Nada Al Naqbi, the Women Sports Department Manager at the Sharjah Ladies Club.

The club has an Olympic-sized pool and a large tennis court as a means of providing a platform for training.

On the question of clothing that expose parts of the body, she says that "there are ways around that, it is a matter of culture and perception of a particular sport".

In the past five years, there has been a great change in the attitudes of families and Emirati women themselves when it comes to trying their hand at various kinds of sports.

"You have Emirati women shooting, doing judo, lifting weights, they are breaking various gender barriers and biases," says Ms Al Naqbi. "It is now rare to hear a family protesting over their daughter competing abroad in a tournament."

At the same time, many women end up quitting sports when they get married.

"While some continue after marriage, the majority quit to dedicate their time to their homes and children," she says.

"Women are working on finding the right balance that makes them feel comfortable and able to excel in more than one area."

Despite the great support from government entities, and the availability of facilities, the number one sport in the UAE remains football.

"It will take time for the rest to pick up. What we can do now is support our young and help them pursue whatever sports they want, no matter how unconventional their choice," she says.

* Rym Ghazal