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Dubai: Ashwaq Al Messabi is businesslike in her approach as the youngest, and also the only international woman foil referee in the entire Gulf region.

As an emirati fencer with the Bani Yas Club’s Fencing team, Al Messabi has the aura of having achieved something way beyond her years. Though her first love is the competitive part, the 21-year-old final semester student from Zayed University decided to take up the officiating side of fencing to meet her own needs.

Not too comfortable with male referees officiating ever since she started participating some seven years back, Al Messabi teamed up with fellow fencers at Bani Yas Club Alanoud Al Sa’adi and Mariam Salah to take the national-level test for referees in 2017. A year later, all three girls opted for an international licence in refereeing putting themselves among the rarer commodities of sports officials in the region.

“I don’t have anything against having a male referee, but we felt it’s much better to have a woman officiate at matches involving women,” Al Messabi told Gulf News on the sidelines of the fencing competition of the Nad Al Sheba (NAS) Ramadan Sports Tournament.

“Today, all three of us are in demand at every fencing competition taking place in the Gulf region. There is a lot of fencing in Saudi Arabia and we need to travel there quite frequently,” she added.

Her frequent travels, coupled with her varied experiences while on tour, have given the young emirati fencer a deeper knowledge of her sport. “There is so much to be done for fencing, especially among the women competitors,” she remarked.

“My aim is two-fold. I am in a very strategic position at the moment. I am an athlete and I am an official, and both allow me to see the UAE flag flying everywhere I go. I have my ambitions as a fencer, but I think my future lies as an official perhaps one day making it to the Olympic Games,” she smiled.