An 11-a-side debut for UAE women

For the first time, Emirati eves will play in the West Asia Championship to be held at the Military Stadium from February 20-28.

ABU DHABI // A UAE women's football team will break new ground when they make their full 11-a-side international debut later this month in the West Asia Championship, which will be held at the Military Stadium in the capital from February 20-28. The host team are in Group B along with Kuwait and Palestine, with Group A containing Iran, Bahrain and Jordan, the defending champions. The Emirati women have featured in seven tournaments in the past but will be playing 11-a-side for the first time at regional level.

"We have been preparing for the last two years and are excited with the prospect of participation in our first competitive tournament," said Connie Selby, the Australian who has coached the team for two years. "We don't know much about the other teams but expect them to be very competitive. But we are hopeful of doing well. It is important for us to do well and set a benchmark. For the sport to grow, we have to be successful.

"The team has had a two-month [training] camp in Europe where we played a few friendlies, and back in Dubai we have been playing against the boys. "They are quicker and technically better and it has been very useful for us." Rashid al Zaabi, a member of the UAE Football Association, said Emirati women's participation is a step forward and brings the game to a new audience. "Women's football was in the pipeline and now gets off the ground with the first representative side at the international level," he said.

"Their participation is a big step forward for the women's game in the country." The Military Stadium, the tournament venue, is opposite the Armed Forces Officers Club.