DUBAI // The Dubai Schools League is hoping to give sports a boost in the UAE and create awareness about healthy living in a country beset with issues like obesity and diabetes.
The league was started this year as part of the Princess Haya Initiative for the Development of Health, Physical Education and School Sports, with 48 school teams taking part.
The initiative was launched in 2007 to meet the federal government's objective in developing physical education.
Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, the project manager of the Princess Haya Initiative, said there are three main objectives.
• Student health. "The community in the UAE, in general, suffer from obesity and diabetes," he said. "We are the second worst country in the world when it comes to diabetes. At least 20 per cent of the people have diabetes. Heart problems are also increasing. So her Royal Highness wanted a programme to educate the kids and public about healthy living, healthy diet, etc."
• Sports development. "Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum [Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] called for the development of physical education, which plays a great role in the development of sports in the UAE," Abdul-Rahman said. "He said the sport pyramid in the UAE is upside down. Sports should start in schools, [but] here it starts in the clubs.
• Social skills. "We teach kids better behaviour, give them some life skill through playing sport," he said. "Another thing is respecting all the cultures. This is the main focus in our initiative … how through sport we can teach the kids to respect different cultures, especially since we are in a country where 200 nationalities exist."
The Dubai Schools League is the first official inter-school tournament for schools across the cultural spectrum. It brings together public, private and international schools for the first time.
"The league is one part of the Princess Haya Initiative," Abul-Rahman said. "The idea was that in Dubai we do not have an official league for schools. In the past, a group of schools would together organise their leagues.
"Like the Indian schools have their own league; the British schools have their own leagues; the public schools have their own leagues; the Arabic private schools have their league.
"So we thought about how to bring all schools together under an official umbrella. That is why we are calling it the official Dubai Schools League to distinguish it from others."
He said the plan is to add one or two sports to the league each year.
"By the end of this football, we are going to have the first official Dubai champion," he said "We can say this school is really the Dubai champion in football."