x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Women footballers make international debut

A group of Emirati women are on the verge of creating a piece of history when they make their international debut in football in the West Asian Championship.

ABU DHABI // A group of Emirati women are on the verge of creating a piece of history when they make their international debut in football in the West Asian Championship at the Military Stadium in the capital on Saturday evening. They face Palestine in the second match at 7pm after the defending champions Jordan face Bahrain in the opener at 4pm in the third staging of the biennial championship. "This obviously is the first step forward and we are all excited at the prospect of playing in our first competitive tournament," said UAE coach Connie Selby. "It is indeed the first real test for the girls and this level." Selby has worked with the team for more than two years and felt the championship would herald an exciting new path for women's football in the country. "Women's football have received the backing of the country's governing body for the sport and I don't see why it can't move forward," said the Australian. "The game has been played in schools and more recently in open seven-a-side tournaments involving teams from other countries. "We are taking a huge step forward to play in the West Asian Championship but whatever the result, women's football is moving forward. This is going to create tremendous interest among the young Emirati girls." The UAE are in Group B that also includes Kuwait. Selby, who has got her team prepared in Europe and with games against the boys in Dubai, felt they have had decent preparation in the lead-up to the tournament. "We wouldn't know how good we are until we start playing," added Selby. "But I reckon we can match them. We have had a decent preparation and don't see any reason to look positively for a team playing in their first international tournament." Jordan won and hosted the two previous events in 2005 and 2007. They are in Group A that also includes Iran and Bahrain, the first Gulf nation to establish a women's team in 2003. Iran were runner-ups in their first appearance in the West Asian Championship in 2005, but the UAE coach admitted she did not know too much about any of the teams. She said: "We don't know much about the opposition but I would presume they are all competitive teams. "This is a new experience for us but want to go out there and perform to the best of our ability." apassela@thenational.ae