The UAE has been urged to keep “pushing” women’s football and capitalise on a surge of global interest in the game to grow the sport here.
England internationals Steph Haughton, who also captains her country, and striker Toni Duggan helped coach UAE national team and youth players along with their Manchester City Women’s Football Club teammates on Saturday.
The pair undertook a venture similar to the one held at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island last year and reckoned that more women were present this time around.
What will it take for the UAE women’s side, who are currently the highest-ranked Arabian Gulf country at 73rd in the Fifa rankings, to improve? “I think it’s just pushing it,” Duggan, a 24-year-old striker, told Gulf News. “It took time, especially in England. I’d say it’s been at its highest point that it’s ever been in England. But look over there now and the amount of girls involved.
“I think when I was younger there weren’t that many, so they’re already a step ahead of the game. Who knows the future? They could have their own successful league here and I could come and play here. [laughs]”
“I think when we set up the team we wanted to raise the profile of the women’s game and these opportunities help that.”
“Hopefully young girls from other communities can have opportunities just like us,” added Haughton, 27, a defender who captained England to third place at last summer’s World Cup.
“Numbers have probably doubled [from last year’s Abu Dhabi training session], which is a great sign. You see a lot of girls coming over asking about how we did at the World Cup and how we do things at Manchester. We want to make a difference and if that means coming over here and inspiring girls to play football, that’s what we want to do.”
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