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.
Al Ain showed once again dominated the President’s Jiu-Jitsu Cup after finishing top of the fourth round with a rich haul of medals.
At the Baynounah Educational Complex in Al Dhafra, the Garden City club clinched 14 golds, four silvers and nine bronzes to accumulate 627 points. They finished just ahead of Al Wahda (627 points) and Al Jazira (422).
Among the medalists was Hilal Naser from Al Dhafra Sports Club. Competing in the U-18 youth category, he won bronze medal and expressed his pride in being part of the tournament.
“Winning a medal in a championship named after His Highness the President is an honor. The round was very powerful since it is brings together players of different belts into the same category,” he said.
Gold medalist Reem Al Hashemi of Al Jazira, said it was difficult to win the 49kg division, saying every competitor showed a high level of skill and determination to win.
“We achieved our goal for this round, and the performance was wonderful at various levels, especially the playing level,” said Al Hashemi. “We have benefited greatly from playing with different clubs and players of different belts, which allowed us to gain experience and learn from our mistakes.”
Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, vice-president of UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), added: “The success of each round of this prestigious championship supports the strategic goals of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in spreading the affinity for this sport amongst the UAE youth, and assuring the UAE’s position as an international hub for this sport.”
Mahra Polo edged a thriller against Zedan to qualify for the semi-finals of the McLaren Cup on Friday.
There wasn’t much in at the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club, with Mahra winning by 5.5 goals to 5 to book their place in the last four of the event.
It was even stevens for large parts of the singles contest, with Mahra holding a 4-3 lead at the interval, but the half goal handicap made all the difference as both teams kept going right until the end.
Jeronimo del Carril scored four for Mahra while Pablo Mac Donough, of Zedan, also netted a quadruple of goals in what turn out to be a classic five chukkers encounter in front of a large crowd in Dubai.
Victory means the Rashid Al Habtoor-owned team are the first side to reach this stage of the cup with a 2-2 win record.
The McLaren Cup, which is the opening trophy up for grabs in the Dubai Golf Cup Series 2018, continues this weekend with UAE Polo playing against Bin Drai.
The tournament runs until February 9 while the Polo Masters Cup (February 10-15), Julius Baer Gold Cup (February 16 to March 9) and The Dubai Cup (April 6-13) make up the other events in the series.