ABU DHABI // As the number of potential Emirati medal-winning prospects emerge every passing year, the need has arisen for the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) to embark on new ideas to embrace them.
On that concept, the federation has ventured on staging a series of trials to shortlist prospective candidates in the men’s categories to develop a feeder squad to the national team.
The national team consist of only 10 members. They train full-time and include camps arranged both locally and overseas ahead of any international competitions.
The federation says a back-up squad will not only provide a bigger pool of players but keep those in the national team on their toes.
The opening trial on Friday at the Ipic Arena at the Zayed Sports City saw 35 prospective candidates go through a session that included fitness tests, technical and combat skills under five national team coaches.
Alex Paz, the UAE national team’s Brazilian coach, said it was the first time such trials were conducted.
“The UAE has now got a larger player-base than before, and it is a good idea to provide those with potential a head start,” he said.
“By doing so, the national team will always have a good back-up to fill any void left due to injuries or any other reasons.”
According to Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, chief executive of the UAEJJF, the objective is to select a 40-member squad.
“We will not stop at that,” he said. “Next we will form a squad at every age group starting from the junior boys. Thereafter the goal would be to reach another level of our development programme.
“We have selected some of the potential players through our network of coaches from around the clubs, and some of them came on their own with the belief that they have the capacity to make it to the national team.
“The response has been overwhelming.”
Players from ages 17 to 39 from all over the country turned up for the first trials.
“Jiu-jitsu has revived my passion for martial arts,” said Mohammed Anas, an Emirati school teacher who was the oldest player to attend the trials.
“I was practising mixed martial art 15 years ago and started jiu-jitsu last year. I attended the trials because I feel confident that I can compete and win medals for my country.”
Anas won silver medals at the Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi Open last season, and he added a third silver in last month’s Al Ain Open, all in the Masters-2 white belt division.
Sharjah-based Nasser Rashed, 20, gave up boxing to pursue jiu-jitsu full-time.
“Jiu-jitsu is more rewarding,” he said. “I have been training and competing for the last two years without much success. I attended the trials to show the skills I have and for the experience.”
Mansour Al Junaibi, 26, a blue belt from Al Ain, said there was no better motivation than being called for the national team trials.
“It just goes on to show our efforts are not going unnoticed,” he said. “Hopefully I can make it to the national team.
“This opportunity has given me the motivation to double my efforts.”
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