The national rugby team of the United Arab Emirates will make its debut on the international stage next week, according to a report from the UAE-based Arabian Business.
The team will play against Sri Lanka at the HSBC Asian Five Nations Tournament.
“This match is one that we have been tirelessly working towards,” said Mohammad Abdulrahman Falaknaz, chairman of the UAE’s Rugby Association.
“The team faces a tough task as they [will be] playing under their country’s flag for the first time and, as a newly formed team, the pressure is on for them to perform,” he added.
A number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa have recently embraced rugby.
Rugby was first introduced by the British in Jordan but has mainly been played by expatriates and foreign workers; the Jordan Olympic Committee recognized it only in 2007.
Syrians got a taste of rugby when the French and British introduced them to the game in 2003, as it was expatriates who played it most. The Saudi Arabian Rugby Association was established in 2006 while Algeria created its team in 2007.
In Iran rugby is not just a male domain as women have been playing it for more than a decade.
Morocco, however, is an old hand at rugby, having played its first international game in 1931. It competes in the Africa Cup annually. The North African state won the rugby competition in 2003 and 2004.
Tunisia doesn’t have as old an association to rugby as Morocco but it has been playing the game since 1979.
Ahmed Khoory, Senior Vice President of Emirates Airline commercial operations for the Gulf, Middle East and Iran said: “Emirates is committed to the growth of rugby and we are proud to be involved at this momentous stage in the development of the UAE national team.”
(Dina Al-Shibeeb of Al Arabiya can be reached at email@example.com)