Abu Dhabi: In a conservative society such as the UAE's, it was unthinkable until a few years ago that women would play football, let alone achieve success.
But it is always believed that determination and strong will achieve wonders. And in less than a full year, what the women's football game has achieved in the UAE is no less than a miracle.
"We have thought of all the obstacles that face us while we were planning to introduce and spread the game among women and after the UAE FA and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council [ADSC] agreed to form the Women's Football Committee [WFC]." Tilal Al Hashemi, vice-chairman of the WFC, told Gulf News.
"We realised that there are many obstacles — social, parental and mental — that face us and make both girls and parents reluctant. There were some girls who used to play at the Abu Dhabi Sports Club encouraged by Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the ADSC, who played a big role in the introduction and spread of the game.
"We, in the WFC, decided to start by forming the UAE national team last year as our first step and we also decided to host the West Asian Zone Women Championship which we successfully won beating teams from Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Palestine.
"The victory in the West Asian Zone Championship sent a clear message about the capabilities of our team and our seriousness in establishing local competitions and it encouraged most of the parents to let their daughters practise the game with their schools' teams." Al Hashemi said.
The second step, according to Al Hashemi was when they met officials of the UAE Schools Sports Federation and agreed to organise a championship for the educational zones for under 15 years.
"Nine educational zones from Abu Dhabi, the Western Region, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Sharjah Educational Office in Khor Fakkan participated in organising the first local competition for the schools in their regions and then selecting the best players to represent the region.
"Of course the qualifiers and finals of this competition unearthed raw talent and we discovered some very talented youngsters," Al Hashemi said.
"The third step was organising the Emirates Cup with the participation of eight teams from all over the UAE — which were divided into two groups of four teams each and which competed in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This competition has witnessed great participation and the parents of most players attended the matches and actually cheered their daughters as the first ever open official women football competition organised in the country.
"The fourth step was the organisation of an under-17 competition for the high secondary schools in all educational zones, with each region holding their own qualifications between the local schools. Believe me, the success that occurred in this particular competition was unexpected and we were proud of it.
"The fruits of the success of the under-17 competition was announced two weeks ago in the UAE FA quarters in Dubai in a press conference regarding the organisation of the first women indoor football competition from next October. The tournament will be open to all teams from schools, private and government companies and departments, expatriate communities and universities.
"To encourage all teams to take part, there are no limitations to the nationalities of the players and each team can field any player they register. The WFC will use this competition to start registering the local national women footballers with the UAE FA like the clubs do," Al Hashemi said.