For a sport that’s popular with women across the Americas as well as in continental Europe and Australia, it’s surprising that it has taken this long to get a league up and running in Dubai. What’s even more unexpected is that, according to some of the competition’s founding players, it has taken a solid 18 months of nagging to get it started. But it appears the ends have justified the means.
In January, Duplays launched Dubai’s first women-only basketball league. It’s still in its naissance, but every week more ladies show up to take part. ‘I come all the way from Ajman to play,’ says Kirsty Meyer. ‘I was so surprised when I first turned up. Other women have been forced to play mixed games or haven’t been able to play at all before now.’
The league accepts players of all levels – everyone from beginners to those who have played at a high level back home are represented. Each Tuesday night they gather at the Dubai International Academy for an hour or so of drills and practice before splitting into teams. The games consist of two 20-minute halves and are refereed. Everyone is encouraged to come along.
Netball has been a popular sport in Dubai since around the same time as the Trade Centre was built, or at least it seems like it. Hundreds of ladies across the city don their bibs every week and hit the courts. There’s no doubt that it’s by far the most popular sport played by women, so it stands to reason that there’s a couple of well organised clubs to serve the demand.
The Dubai Netball League (DNL) is the oldest and largest club with its 24 teams across three divisions. They used to play in Mirdif, but games are now held at the Emirates stadium, which makes it more convenient for those who live at the other end of town. The winter tournament is about to finish, but the brave can play on through the hot months in the summer league.
Thankfully there is an alternative for anyone who wants to start playing straight away. The Duplays Netball league, a recent addition to the pack, welcomes players of any level to come along and join in at either of its locations – Emirates International School and Raffles International School in Jumeirah. You can enter as a team, if you’re lucky enough to have one all ready to go, or as an individual. If you come along by yourself you’ll be placed in a team of like-minded ladies. ‘Our aim,’ says organiser Emma Moffat, ‘is to enjoy the game in a fun and social setting.’
It’s a little known fact that many women like to play rugby. At first glance, a sport that’s traditionally viewed as a tough and rough, full to the brim with body slamming tackles and high levels of testosterone, is not an endeavour most would expect us ladies to enjoy. But the stats tell a different story.
Women have been playing across the region for the past decade and a half. And, at present, around 200 women are registered in teams in the UAE, Doha, Kuwait and Bahrain. Of the eight teams that play in the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU) championships, three are from Dubai: Dubai Exiles, Dubai Hurricanes and UAE Falcons.
Of course, rugby isn’t for everybody. ‘There is no difference at all between the men’s and the women’s game,’ says Lucy Jones, AGRFU ladies representative. ‘We tackle, scrummage and have lineouts with exactly the same technical requirements.’ For those brave enough to give it a go, it does come with a load of great benefits, including fitness and a chance to meet a load of new friends.
Email Lucy Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org