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Arab Women’s Sports Tournament looks to welcome more Saudi involvement, says event director

RIYADH: The Arab Women’s Sports Tournament in Sharjah, which ends on Feb. 12, saw four Saudi clubs — Capital, Al-Ittihad, Al-Khaleej, and Al-Thuqbah — take part in the seventh edition of the event.

The largest female-only sporting event in the Arab world was organized by the Sharjah Women’s Sports Foundation, which is headed by Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al-Qasimi.

The four Saudi clubs comprised 32 athletes, who participated in athletics, basketball, karate and archery.

Saudi sports daily Arriyadiyah sat down with tournament director Noura Al-Shamsi to discuss Saudi participation, the impact of the event and its future.

Tell us about the first participation of Saudi women from four clubs?Firstly, we are very happy with the great interest of the leadership in Saudi Arabia in women’s sports, and we, as organizers of the Arab Women’s Sports Tournament, are happy with the participation of four Saudi clubs, and we hope to increase the number of clubs participating in the upcoming editions.

How would you rate the standard of the Saudi athletes?They displayed a very high level in the basketball games, and their skills on the court stood out.

What about the level of participating Arab clubs in general?The technical level of the tournament was very high, especially the clubs from the Gulf that have competed against clubs from Arab nations, and that have a long history in sports. Despite that (difference in experience), our girls have proved to be strong rivals to them.

What was new in the seventh edition compared to previous editions?We are keen to present something new in every edition of the largest Arab women’s sporting event — 560 athletes and 63 teams from 15 Arab countries participated in this edition. The competitions were held in three locations in the emirate, including the eastern and central regions, with the aim of promoting the beautiful tourist places in Sharjah, spreading the word about its sports culture and attracting fans to attend as well.

The participation of UAE clubs had specific conditions, what were they?Participating teams from the Emirates had to be the champions of their particular local league, and the aim of this was to raise the standard of the competition. If it was not possible for the champions to participate, the team in second place would take part instead.

The UAE is ahead of Saudi Arabia in women’s sports. What advice can you give women from the Kingdom?We in the UAE, especially Sharjah, have always enjoyed unlimited backing from Sheikha Jawaher Al-Qasimi, and she also lends her support to the families of the athletes in order to support their daughters. And I hope that parents in Saudi Arabia will support their daughters in the same way.

What message would you send to the Saudi athletes?Today you are living in a golden age, and enjoying great support in sports. You must follow your passion, believe that nothing is impossible, and never stop working and moving forward.

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