UAE national basketball team player Amal Jamal believes there are no longer any barriers preventing Emirati women from taking up sport and that the opportunity is there for them to take it.
Jamal, who is the captain of the Sharjah Ladies Club team taking part in the Arab Women Sports Tournament (AWST) this week, has been playing basketball for more than 12 years and remains committed to the sport at both club and national team level.
“Ever since I was young, when I nine years old, basketball was the most famous sport played in my school,” Jamal told Sport360 on the sidelines of the AWST in Sharjah.
“I used to watch the men play it. The girls who were older than me, I used to watch them, how they played, how they thought about the sport, how enthusiastic they got, how they’d be trailing by four points and within a few seconds they turn things around. I really got into it from a young age.”
Jamal is an avid fan of LeBron James, “wherever LeBron James goes, I’m with him. He’s my favourite”, she says with a smile, and her passion for her sport shines through when talking about it.
What would she ask James if she ever met him?
“I would ask him how he continues to compete at such a high level after turning 30,” says the 28-year-old Jamal.
The Emirati centre forward says her parents supported her career in sport from a young age, with the only condition being that she took care of her studies as well. Jamal has a degree in architecture engineering and finds no reason why UAE women wouldn’t take up sport.
“I would tell young Arab girls that the opportunity is there for them to take it. If they think they can’t do sport because of the hijab or they cannot cover up, none of that is an obstacle now because the hijab and conservative wear is approved now in sport worldwide,” she explains.
“You can wear the hijab and run around and compete and reach an international level if you want, it’s all approved now. Parents must know that there are benefits in allowing their girls to do sport, for their children and themselves as parents because athletes ultimately raise their name and the UAE flag.”
Jamal believes a tournament like the AWST, that brings together 68 different teams, competing across nine sports, can help unearth local talent, while exposing UAE clubs to a higher level of competition.
She admits there is still work to be done though in order to promote the sport of basketball in the country.
“There are some youth teams coming up at the moment but in terms of other clubs with first teams, there aren’t that many. I really wish there were more teams because we are currently just four teams in the local league and that’s obviously not strong enough,” she concludes.
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