Record participation of girls expected at Abu Dhabi Children’s Cup

A staggering 97 per cent of competitors on the first day are expected to be Emirati, writes Amith Passela.

There will be a huge increase in Emirati participation at the jiu-jitsu in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // Girls will be first up on the mat when the world’s biggest jiu-jitsu competition begins on Monday at the IPIC Arena.

The six-day competition has drawn more than 4,000 entries to the venue at Zayed Sports City in both the Abu Dhabi Children’s World Cup and the seventh Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship.

The opening day’s competition will see a record 968 Emirati girls from a total of 995 entries, a staggering 97 per cent, in action on the mat.

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“The growth and the development of jiu-jitsu among the Emirati girls and boys has been mind boggling,” said Roberta Ferreira, a former coach in the Abu Dhabi Education Zone’s School Jiu-Jitsu programme and now supervisor of the women’s National Services team.

“When the Children’s Cup was first staged in 2012 it was a one-day affair with around 700 Emirati girls and boys. Now there are more than 950 Emirati girls alone.

“The numbers just goes on to show how much jiu-jitsu has developed and grown among the Emirati kids in a very short time. It is still early days and I can’t imagine what it would be like in another 10 years.

“It is a remarkable feat to achieve in any sport in any country. I have been coaching some of the girls and it has been an amazing experience for me because of the excitement, enthusiasm and the dedication these girls have shown to learn ­jiu-jitsu.”

A couple of her former pupils, blue belts Reem Al Falahi and Alyazyah Al Shehyari, both 16, will be among the leading contenders for the top honours in Monday’s opening day of ­competition. They were part of a 48-member squad on the first UAE junior national team to compete abroad at the American National Kids Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Los Angeles, California, last October.

Al Shehyari won a silver medal in the orange belt along with three other girls in that ­competition.

Ferreira said the girls have the skills and mental strength needed to achieve success in the sport. “These two girls have worked tirelessly to receive the blue belts,” Ferreira said.

“I’m very confident of a bold performance from them at the Abu Dhabi Children’s Cup, and I will be there to cheer them.”

Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, the chief executive of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, said as well as the six days of action on the mat there is also plenty for fans of all ages to enjoy at a fan zone.

“We want to provide the best of both to the families, fans and visitors arriving at the arena across the six days,” he said.

“Besides the world-class contests we have set up a fan zone with plenty of entertainment, children’s play area, activities for adults and food courts for everyone to enjoy.”

Spectators can win a Land Rover Discovery Sport or a Jaguar XF in a free entry tickets raffle.

apassela@thenational.ae

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