Sport360° talks to UAE ice-hockey player Fatima Al Ali about her goals, why she wants to help promote ice hockey in the UAE, and why she would consider playing the sport on a full-time basis.
Fatima Al Ali has only been playing ice hockey on a part-time basis for three years, but she has already represented the UAE ladies national team and recently won silver medal with her club Abu Dhabi Storms at the Hong Kong 5’s tournament.
With a job as a website administrator and photographer, the 24-year-old Emirati talked to Sport360° about her goals, why she wants to help promote ice hockey in the UAE, and why she would consider playing the sport on a full-time basis.
You finished second with Abu Dhabi Storms at the Hong Kong Hockey 5’s tournament last week. How did it feel to win the silver medal?
I am so proud because there were some strong sides in the competition. I scored five goals in the tournament which I was really pleased about. The matches were a bit tough and all the teams were of the same level, so we all had to work really hard to earn this second place. It was quite different to be playing outside the UAE but it was a good experience.
You played for the UAE national team in December. How did it feel to represent your country?
It’s always a pleasure to represent the UAE. I played in the Asian Cup in Hong Kong in December and the competition level was very high. For me it was a dream come true to play for my country and that was the highlight of my ice hockey career so far because that is everybody’s dream when they play any type of sport.
Did you learn a lot from the Asian Cup?
Most definitely. I learned from other team players on how they play. It will help me prepare better for future tournaments.
What is it you enjoy about playing ice hockey?
It’s really a challenging sport and there is just so much action that thrills me.
What made you play ice hockey?
I was the official photographer of the men’s UAE national team since 2008. The UAE ladies’ team was then launched in 2010 and I was keen to give the sport a try because it looked fun and competitive. So I started playing for Abu Dhabi Storms from 2011.
What’s your view on ice hockey in the UAE?
I don’t feel ice hockey gets enough support because it’s not popular as football or other sports in the UAE. I want to show people that ice hockey is being played in the UAE and the Middle East, and that ladies can achieve something in the sport.
Since playing ice hockey, do you feel the sport has started to grow in the UAE?
The sport is growing and a lot of ladies are aware of the sport and ready to play the game. However, we still need more ice rinks and more publicity to make the sport popular.
Being a centre forward, is that a difficult position to play in?
It is a little bit because in ice hockey you have to be moving around. Not only do I score the goals, I also have to play my part in helping the team defend so that is quite difficult. There is some pressure in scoring goals but I feel really happy when the puck hits the back of the net.
What’s your training regime?
I train twice a week at Abu Dhabi Ice Rink for four hours altogether. We practise our shooting, skating, defending – all the skills required for the sport. I also do a lot of running and other sporting activities outside the ice rink that helps me stay fit.
Are there any other sports you play?
Football and basketball because it keeps me fit for when I play ice hockey.
What are the goals you want to achieve?
I only have one major goal and that is to represent the UAE in a World Championship in the future.
You also work as a photographer as well as being a website administrator at the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies sports academy in Abu Dhabi. Do you find it difficult to combine your job with ice hockey?
Not really. I’m quite organised with everything, so I don’t really have much trouble making time for both. My work does help me to fulfill my role for ice hockey when there are competitions.
Would you like to play ice hockey on a full-time basis in the future?
For sure yes. We only play part-time because there’s not much financial support, so we need a job to help. My family and friends have been very supportive and attend the games that I play. They certainly want me to continue playing the sport and I love ice hockey.