The rise and rise of women’s sports in the UAE

The rise and rise of women’s sports in the UAE

It emerged recently that nearly half (45%) of adult sports fans in the UAE prefer watching women’s sports to men’s. Why? Well, in part because 71% of those surveyed expressed a desire for sports to be more inclusive, compared to a global average of 68%.

It seems that UAE residents’ consideration of diversity and inclusion regarding sporting events has contributed to the cultivation of a landscape of gender inclusivity in the UAE. This is reflected by the string of successes our female sports stars have achieved at national, regional, and global levels.

From Alia Saeed Mohammed, who represented the UAE as a long-distance runner at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, to five-time national figure skating champion Zahra Lari, who was the first person within her discipline to compete internationally wearing a hijab, the Emirates is home to a wealth of inspirational sportswomen.

These individual success stories now look set to be replicated within the realm of team games as more and more women and girls across the Emirates continue to discover new talents within an array of sporting pursuits.

For example, building on the success of the FIFA Women’s Club World Cup 2009, which was hosted in Abu Dhabi, increasing numbers of women in the UAE are taking to the soccer pitch, resulting in the UAE Football Association’s decision to launch a FIFA-registered women’s 11-a-side league this season as part of Vision 2038.

But increased participation has not occurred by accident. On the contrary, women’s sports within the UAE have flourished thanks to movements and groups dedicated to providing opportunities for those interested in participating in these activities.

The Women’s Sports Committee (WSC), for instance, which forms part of the Dubai Sports Council, was formed in 2006 to promote participation in physical activity and professional sports, empowering females to reach the performance levels necessary to compete in local, regional, and global competitions.

In line with its vision to cultivate a promising future for women’s sports in Dubai, the committee works together with multiple stakeholders to promote a culture of women’s sports in the emirate, providing opportunities for participants to pursue and secure significant sporting achievements.

The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy (FBMA) is another example of a UAE-based organisation that has made a significant contribution to the advancement of women’s sports. With a focus on events and tournaments, community engagement, education and research, local talent management, and the International Conference of Sports for Women (ICSW), the FBMA has helped to put Abu Dhabi on the global map of female sports, attracting participation and support from world-class athletes.

The Arab Women’s Sports Tournament (AWST), meanwhile, was launched in 2012 to promote equal opportunities for women in sports. The Olympic-themed biennial event, which is hosted in Sharjah, provides a valuable platform for sportswomen from across the region, enabling female athletes to excel on the international stage.

These are just three of the UAE-based organisations and events that are empowering women from across the Emirates and beyond, not only to participate in sports but also to hone their skills and achieve their full potential. What’s more, increased uptake brings with it a series of long-term benefits. As role models for people of all ages, the example set by UAE sportswomen of today will encourage other women to try new activities, uncover fresh passions and develop their skills as they meet like-minded teammates and opponents on the field.

As a lifelong sports enthusiast, the sustained upward trajectory of women’s sports in the UAE is a matter very close to my heart. In addition to enjoying live sports (the Knicks rule!), I adore participating in various sports and fitness activities, from paddleboarding and kayaking to boxing and basketball.

I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have access to sports clubs and facilities, regardless of their age, ability or socioeconomic background. We may not all enjoy the same activities but, whatever your gender, there is at least one sport out there for everyone.

As such, I find it immensely encouraging to see so many women enjoying sports in the UAE today, and I look forward to witnessing even greater participation and success in the future.

If our nation can continue on its current path, the future of women’s sports in the UAE will look very bright indeed. This is excellent news because, when it comes to gender equality and inclusivity, everyone’s a winner.