Women’s football is on the rise in Dubai and the new UAE FA IPIC Women’s Football League (sponsored by International Petroleum Investment Company), which kicked off in March, gives women’s teams a touch of the professional treatment that the boys have been enjoying for some time. It’s the only league that combines pro clubs such as Al Wahda, with social teams including the Dubai All Stars women’s team – an amateur group of 20 women aged 21-35 from all over the globe.
The league has eight clubs in total, five professional and three social – the aforementioned Dubai All Stars women’s team, Yas Kicks Ladies Football Club and Abu Dhabi Wolfhounds. The teams get to play full 11-a-side football – making a change from the five and seven-a-side games that women’s amateur teams usually get to participate in.
Jessica Prelle, Captain of the Dubai All Stars women’s team, says that the league is a welcome development for sportswomen in the region. ‘This IPIC league is the start of something amazing, because the players are treated like professionals. We get picked up in a bus, we have a full kit and trained referees, and it’s all done properly, showing that we are taken seriously.’
Prelle is heavily involved in the football scene in Dubai. She is captain of three teams including a mixed squad – Phoenix FC Mixed – and works for the E-Sports Football Academy. She grew up playing the beautiful game in her home country of Germany and has continued with her passion here in Dubai, where she has resided for the past ten years. She’s seen women’s football change and grow over the decade and she believes this kind of league is a long-awaited step in the right direction. ‘I think it’s going to start to really develop, especially now that the UAE Football Association has become really involved and there is a Women’s Football Committee. They are going to get more grass roots events, getting younger girls into the sport,’ she says.
‘The DWFA [Dubai Women’s Football Association] has done a great job over the years to get women involved. It was basically the only outlet for women to play at a really good level.’
The league not only provides an extra opportunity for women to play, but it is also an opportunity for female linespersons, referees and assistants to participate in the sport fully.
Kaye Smith, School Partnership Manager at E-Sports UAE and IPIC league liaison, confirms that there are already plans in place to develop the league into next season. ‘We aim to play each other twice next season and hopefully we can attract more teams. We hope that by opening up the league participation to all, it will attract more interest from younger women, too, and help towards promoting girls’ football from a grass roots level.’
Men, however, aren’t entirely excluded from this new league, since the teams can select their own coach, who can be male or female. The All Stars women’s team are trained by Raha Hadjarpour, who also co-runs the Dubai Women’s Football Association.
Prelle’s squad may be an amateur team amidst pros, but they have been proving that they have the skill to keep up with the competition by beating Abu Dhabi Country Club B team 4-0, in their first match. Buoyed by their win, they have taken to training even harder. The Dubai All Stars women’s team train every week at GEMS Metropole School, Motor City, and although their squad for the IPIC league is complete, they welcome any interested ladies to join them for a kick about.
UAE FA IPIC Women’s Football League. Free to spectate. Matches on Sat May 9, 6pm, and Mon May 20, 7pm. Search Footie Events in the UAE on Facebook for venue details. Women’s football training for beginners from Dhs30 towards the cost of pitch fees. Sat 8.30pm-9.45pm. GEMS World Academy, Al Barsha South. Search Footie Events in the UAE on Facebook to register.
E-Sports Mix it Up IV This seven-a-side mixed league has 12 teams. Each need a minimum of four women and three men, and play on Saturdays in Dubai Motor City. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join. www.esportsuae.com.