Meet the UAE women's national football team who are breaking boundaries and changing perceptions

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The UAE women’s national football team was formed in 2009, which coincided with Abu Dhabi hosting the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time.

Since then, the women’s game has been receiving more and more support from the government, as well as Abu Dhabi Sports Council, to further develop it and its reach.

“Since the first Club World Cup more girls are opening up about the game and the society here are accepting the fact that women are playing football,” says UAE national team player Nouf Al Anzi.

Al Anzi has been on the team for several years, and is happy to be part of a group of young women changing perceptions regarding female participation in football here in the Emirates.


“Some people, when I tell them I play football they say ‘what? Girls, playing football?’ But we get support from our families and close friends. The sport wasn’t popular but now we can find opportunities to play so it’s good,” she told Sport360 two years ago in an interview.








The UAE national women’s team narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Asian Cup but the players remain hopeful in achieving great results in the future.


“Representing your country is something but actually wearing a shirt that has a badge, while playing and trying to achieve something, to be honest it’s such an honour to wear this shirt. I feel so proud. I hope my parents and family and the society I live in feel as proud as I feel,” says national team player Amal Wael.


The UAE women’s team is currently ranked 80 in the world according the FIFA rankings.


“With the support of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the national team has a great opportunity that we have more girls coming to play football,” says team captain Noura Al Mazrouei.


Watch the video above (courtesy of Abu Dhabi Sports Council) to know more about the Emirati national football team.




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Arabian Gulf League is charting new path in changed landscape as 2017/18 gets under way

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Fresh start: Sebastian Tagliabue of Al Wahda scores against new Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club (PLC).

Certainties are in short supply as the 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League kicks off this weekend after a summer of sweeping change.

The current tumult had its genesis last May. Surprise mergers of Al Shabab, Al Ahli and promoted Dubai CSC to create Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club plus Sharjah’s amalgamation with First Division League-neighbours Al Shaab brought an era of austerity glaringly into life.

Declining oil prices and shrinking largesse from owners has caught up with a once-free-spending competition, whose number has dropped from 14 to 12 teams for the first time since 2011/12. Allied with the UAE’s painful failure this month to make World Cup 2018 and the fact a two-year run of providing beaten AFC Champions League finalists is at an end, its competitors must battle a narrative of genuine regression for the first time since professionalism’s introduction in 2008/09.

This drive for self-sustainability has seen Al Ain’s ¤3 million (Dh12.3m) purchase of starting Sweden striker Marcus Berg from Panathinaikos the standout transaction. Quite the drop from Ahli’s ¤17m (Dh70m) capture of Senegal forward Moussa Sow from Fenerbahce two years ago.

The move from bull to bear market – Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro moving to Flamengo from Ahli and Sharjah cashing in on Al Hilal’s move for Venezuela centre forward Gelmin Rivas – adds an unpredictable edge. Whether this becomes a welcome switch in status will be decided by the quality of games on offer during the coming months.

On the pitch, this slow-burning, transformative trend was evidenced last term by Henk ten Cate’s freewheeling Al Jazira breaking the interminable duopoly of Al Ain and – the now defunct – Ahli in revitalising style for the first time since their prior success in 2010/11. This latest triumph was earned with the most points (68) and wins (22) since the division turned professional.

Such enlivening statistics provide a ray of hope in troubled times.

After the adroit Pride of Abu Dhabi prepared for December’s Club World Cup on home soil by adding UAE forward Ahmed Khalil, ex-France anchorman Lassana Diarra, Uzbekistan winger Sardor Rashidov and Brazilian attacker Romarinho on free transfers, a new era of one-team dominance may await.

A long way back for the established powers beckons after shock second-placed finishers Al Wasl retained coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena and batted away interest from across the Arabian Gulf in brilliant Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima.

The new Shabab Al Ahli are yet to bring in a single player as trophy-hoarding boss Cosmin Olaroiu navigates troubled waters.

In Al Ain, 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman again resisted European overtures but there have been few other positives since boss Zoran Mamic’s February poaching from Al Nassr in Riyadh.

Coaching changes dominate for President’s Cup holders Al Wahda and the team they defeated, Al Nasr.  The Clarets welcome beaten 2014 ACL finalist Laurentiu Reghecampf, while Cesare Prandelli’s coaching career has slumped since leading Italy to Euro 2012’s showpiece.

Al Dhafra have banked on Iraq’s Mohannad Abdul-Raheem to replace the goals of Syria forward Omar Khrbin. In contrast, amalgamated Sharjah have left their foreign business ludicrously late – although Wednesday night’s deal for emerging Chile midfielder Cesar Pinares could be the window’s best.

At the bottom, an expected play-off because of the move back to 14 for 2018/19 makes the situations of promoted Ajman, Hatta, Dibba Al Fujairah and Emirates Club potentially less parlous.

But like everything else in this top flight adapting to a new reality, ironclad predictions remain folly until the action unfolds.

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A legacy is on the line for UAE as twists and turns of qualification lead to Amman

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The UAE's hopes are hanging by a thread.

Amman’s undulating hills and the chaotic, labyrinthlike streets they lead onto provide a fascinating background for a date with destiny, nearly a decade in the making for the UAE’s cherished ‘Golden Generation’.

A day that promises nerve jangling excitement, tribal passion and pained impatience awaits as nations spanning the breadth of Asia learn whether they had been fated to make next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

The rolling geography of this Middle Eastern outpost provides a fitting backdrop to a tumultuous campaign for the Whites.

From the enthusiasm of third place at the 2015 Asian Cup which slowly ebbed away throughout a trying opening stage. To the troubling acceptance paternal coach Mahdi Ali could take them no further and the burst of enthusiasm delivered by last week’s authoritative 2-1 victory against footballing overlords Saudi Arabia, which means their neighbours remain, somehow, in the mix for a second ever appearance at the World Cup.

The odds are stacked against troops becoming increasing battle hardened under new man Edgardo Bauza. A walloping victory alone against revitalised Iraq – forced to play their home games at neutral venues because of civil war – at the dilapidated Amman International Stadium will not be enough to gate crash the hallowed top three in Group B.

Not unless this is allied with surprising, and substantial, losses for the Saudis or Australia – nations for whom a deeper relationship has been forged with the World Cup finals.

Yet it is the feeling that the UAE’s brush with entering the tournament is fleeting which makes Tuesday’s outcome ever more precious.

Sheer weight of numbers ensure a country which counts its indigenous population at approximately 1.4 million will struggle to consistently make global events. Talents have shone since the cherished crop of Adnan Al Talyani, Ali Thani and Fahad Khamees ran-out at Italia ’90. These include the ceaseless Subait Khater and gifted Ismail Matar, a returnee to the starting line-up in this international break.

There have been further highlights on home soil, when making the 1996 Asian Cup final and winning the Matar-inspired 2007 Gulf Cup. But when will another crop emerge which has produced the last two AFC Players of the Year in Ahmed Khalil and Omar Abdulrahman, plus the 2015 Asian Cup top scorer in Ali Mabkhout?

Never mind Khamis Esmail, Ismail Al Hammadi and the rest of a fine supporting cast.

This ominous question hangs over the impending action. Even when accounting for FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s expansionist plans in the next decade.

A final push must occur, no matter Khalil is the only big hitter who’ll take to the pitch because of suspensions and injuries.

Forget the allure of the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. For a group which first emerged with victory in 2008’s AFC U-19 Championship, played in the London 2012 Olympics and claimed the 2013 Gulf Cup, this was always the true prize.

Ignore the unfavourable standings in Group B. Their true legacy will rest on this outcome.

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