Abdul Aziz: UAE women’s football team can be pioneers

Abdul Aziz: UAE women’s football team can be pioneers
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Published April 16th, 2015 - 14:14 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Nehwal Abdul Aziz (picture courtesy of maktoob.com)
Nehwal Abdul Aziz (picture courtesy of maktoob.com)

The UAE can be regional pioneers in women’s football after recently breaking top 100 in the world rankings, according to the Whites Ladies’ right back Nehwal Abdul Aziz.

The Whites Ladies are currently at their highest position in the women’s world rankings placed 73rd, and while they are second only to 54th-placed Jordan in the Middle East, they now occupy top spot among GCC countries.

“We can definitely be pioneers,” said Abdul Aziz, 35, on the sidelines of the opening of SportsMania, a new 10-pitch six-sport facility in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, on Wednesday. “We want to be leaders in the rankings and we’d like to help other Gulf countries too.

“Qatar and Kuwait have teams in the rankings but we hope others can join us on this journey. We can’t play alone, so we hope countries that don’t have teams follow suit and see the benefits of the sport.”

Women’s football could be deemed as at odds with local culture, but Abdul Aziz said society was fast coming around to the idea.

“Culturally and physically some people are still not convinced in women playing football, but opinions are starting to change,” she added.

“The sport is still not out there, and people are not aware that there are some very talented women’s players in the UAE and Arab world. They maybe haven’t seen where we play or don’t know about our competitions. But as we increase our playing pool and our level improves women’s football will garner attention and more people will start to follow us.”

Abdul Aziz said the rise of women’s football was thanks to initiatives from the UAE Football Association and relevant sports councils, with schools now directing players towards academies and clubs. But she spoke to alleviate the concerns of parents who viewed the sport as too physical or an inadvisable career path.

“Parents are worried about injuries, football is physical, but with proper training and with everyone on the right fitness level injuries can be avoided.

“There are also so many opportunities within the sport for coaches, referees and organisers, so there are chances for women to play and work in football. It is definitely a career for them.”

Abdul Aziz said beyond the UAE’s recent spike in the rankings they now looked to continued growth.

“Now we have to keep playing friendlies and international tournaments and try to get as high up the rankings as possible, while building the national team at Under-14 level and getting girls involved at different age levels to pump into the national team.”

She also attributed the opening of more facilities like SportsMania within different parts of the city as imperative to the growth of the women’s game.

© Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

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