UAE women's team takes Asia Rugby by storm

File / WAM

This week, the UAE Women's Rugby team picked up third place in the Asian Rugby Sevens Trophy tournament in Jakarta, Indonesia.

When they returned, ARN News' Noni Edwards got some time to chat with the president of Asia Rugby, Qais Al Dhalai, who has risen through the ranks of UAE rugby to take on the leading role in Asia.

Despite overseeing rugby for the entire continent, Al Dhalai still expresses pride in his fellow Emirati players.

"Who would ever imagine that Emirati girls would play rugby one day? Now we have a full Emirati squad. Among the team that went to Jakarta there are three Emirati girls. That's a success story. The same thing is happening in India, in Indonesia, Guam, Brunei, KyrgyZstan, Jordan and Palestine," he marvelled.

Gender equity has been a priority for him since assuming the presidency.

His goal was to have 40 per cent of committee positions filled by women by the end of his term in 2024. He Is halfway through that timeframe and well ahead of target.

"When I was elected in November 2019, it was around 5 per cent. We have increased the number of female representation on all committees from 5 per cent to 33 per cent and I'm looking forward to achieving 40 per cent when my term comes to an end after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games," said Al Dhalai. 

Al Dhalai is Dubai-born, bred - and based and he rose through the ranks of the local game, before becoming President of Asia Rugby.

Administration of rugby in Asia presents its own challenges. According to Asia Rugby's statistics, the continent of Asia comprises 60 per cent of the world’s population and 80 per cent of the world’s youth but they only contributed 7.5 per cent of the world rugby playing population as of their last count.

He says Asia isn't like other continents that have indigenous players playing at grassroots level. 

"Asia is an emerging continent, the sport needs more understanding of athletes from different cultures. The good thing that I'm very proud of is that when I was elected in November 2019, there were 29 member countries of Asia Rugby, now we are 36," said Al Dhalai.

He also said rugby, and sport in general, was a way of bridging cultures.

"Asia is the biggest continent in the world, multinational and multicultural, this causes a lot of challenges, but at the same time it's something that can help people's lives and improve people's lives," he explained.

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