SHARJAH // Driven by a passion for sport and love for her country, Nada Askar Al Naqbi has been encouraging women to take part in professional competition for more than 10 years.
Ms Al Naqbi, the director of the sports department at the Sharjah Ladies Club, believes that sport should be part of every child’s life.
“Whether boy or girl, every child must be encouraged to do sports, something that is not only important for health but also because it may be the stepping stones into joining professional teams, if that is what they wish,” she said.
“It is easier for the idea of [taking part in] professional sports to be accepted when the children are young.”
Heading the women’s sports department since its establishment in 2008, Ms Al Naqbi said a lot of progress had been made but that there was still a long way to go.
“We started from zero,” she said. “We started off with three games and now have nine, along with different teams of age groups for women and children.”
Sports at the club are basketball, volleyball, table tennis, shooting, karate, fencing, athletics, archery and show jumping.
One of the biggest achievements to date, Ms Al Naqbi said, was the establishment of the Arab Women Sports Tournament in 2012.
The biennial event, which was first hosted in Sharjah last year, involved about 900 athletes. Thirteen countries from the region, including the UAE, took part in the inaugural championship.
Ms Al Naqbi said the road has not been without obstacles, as more conservative parents are uncomfortable with the idea of their daughter being a professional athlete.
“We wanted to change that idea, and we are still working on that area, that women can be professional athletes,” she said. “When the girls are young, it’s not much of a problem but some parents get nervous when the girls become young women.”
She said one way the department addressed the issue was to establish a parents committee, comprising mothers of players who learned what was involved.
Ms Al Naqbi also said that it was important to encourage all women to do sport, even if it was not on a professional level.
“When you see a woman working out, whether walking or fitness exercises, her health is better, her looks are better, her mental status is also better,” she said, adding that the female athletes she works with are able to balance their personal and professional lives.
Ms Al Naqbi looks up to Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi – wife of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah. She is the club’s leading supporter.
“Sheikha Jawaher was the first one to establish the women’s sports teams and competitions, and if our leaders are passionate about it, it should come naturally that we are too,” she said.
Ms Al Naqbi also said her mother, the first Emirati women sports educator, encouraged her children to volunteer.
“I always say: this is not something we do alone. It’s the women and the men together, and the women can enforce their presence and lead the way.”