Dr Mai Al Jabber (centre), along with Fatima Al Reesi (left) and Haya Al Dafri, announces the participation of the UAE national team in the GCC Women’s Handball Championship. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The sport of handball is all set to break barriers in the region, with the first women’s GCC championship in Kuwait from October 3 to 8.

Though the UAE Handball Federation was set up way back in 1975, women have never got an opportunity to venture outside the country to take part in an event such as this and the excitement was palpable among the Women’s Handball Federation members.

Unlike other countries in the region, UAE boasts a strong set-up for handball for women with 17 affiliated clubs, and the UAE team will comprise some of the best players from these teams.

“This tournament will definitely help women’s sport as a whole in and around the region,” said Dr Mai Al Jabber, board member of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy, who presided over the press conference to announce the UAE team’s participation for the tournament. “I’m sure more women will come forward and that in itself will be a huge achievement.”

The national team comprising 16 players between the ages of 16 and 26 is currently at a training camp in Dubai and board member and chairwoman of the Women Committee of the federation Anisa Al Shabbadi was confident of the team doing well.

“The camp is on and the girls are working hard,” said Al Shabbadi. “For them, it is an opportunity they were looking for since a long time now. More than anything, they will be representing their country and they are keen to make a mark.”

Apart from the UAE and hosts Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain are the other countries who will be fielding sides.

“Our league is strong and competitive as well,” said Al Shabbadi. “However, this is the first time we will be competing against teams from other Gulf states. We don’t know how good they are. I would like to tell we have a good chance. More importantly, I want the girls to enjoy and give their best.”