Dubai: A group of Emirati girls are blazing a trail that may see the breaking of mindsets in sport in the UAE.

As part of the UAERF Player Pathway Programme that sees a partnership between HSBC and the UAE Rugby Federation (UAERF) to make rugby a part of the school curriculum and introduce Emirati boys and girls to the game, the girls from the Al Maha all-Emirati team met up with England’s rugby international Danielle Waterman, also a HSBC ambassador.

“It’s amazing what these girls have achieved by merely stepping on to a rugby pitch. There’s future in this sport and I can see great things happening for rugby in the UAE and the wider region,” Waterman told media. Being a member of England’s national rugby union team, she is a multiple Six Nations Championship winner and became world champion in 2014. She was also selected for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup squad.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to be different. I had to get past similar mindsets growing up in New Zealand and playing among the boys. But I was determined and I learnt so much and today if I can say I have been successful in my career, it all boils down to me taking up those early challenges,” she added.

As per the UAE RF, the total number of rugby players currently stands at 118,298 across 258 schools and of these more than 50 per cent are girls. “For me it’s all about passion. Sport is for everyone,” forward Abrar Al Baloushi told media.

“Once I step onto the pitch, all the negative energy and pressure just goes away, and once the final whistle is blown then it really doesn’t matter. We are all friends once again,” she added.

Amna Al Hammadi, a former footballer who switched over to rugby, said that the game has taught her to manage her time and life. “All three of us go to University and it is difficult to make time. No doubt, we had to go through several obstacles, but we want to be the first in spreading this game here,” she said.

Hessa Al Hammadi felt she has changed as a person as it has brought in discipline into her life. “It’s all about planning and staying disciplined in everything we do now. Of course, the will to give off my best on the field is so great that I need to curtail myself at times and ensure there is a balance between studies and play.”