The football culture is alive and kicking in the UAE with more women getting into the sport. Nike is showing its support by highlighting these talented ladies on the green through their latest Nike women campaign, ‘What Will They Say About You?’
We caught up with the women from the Dubai Football Club (Dubai FC) to talk about what they love most about the beautiful game, its challenges and how it feels to be part of the Nike women story.
Monica loved ballet as a child. One day, when her brother came running into the house covered in mud after a rainy game of football, she thought that looked way more fun. She swapped her tutus for cleats and hasn’t stopped kicking the ball ever since. Monica said the sport has evolved in the Middle East and the level of play has been elevated, especially for women – though there remains a stigma about women in this game.
When she was younger, Monica was discouraged from playing football because some think it’s “not feminine enough.” That didn’t stop her from playing though, and she learned valuable life lessons through this sport. “I think football has helped me, not just health-wise, but also with my relationships with people. Working with a team and other players every day helps you get to know different kinds of people and persevere with certain things.”
Zarah wasn’t allowed to play football as a child. Her dad encouraged sports like tennis or those deemed “more suitable for girls”. She recalls: “I had to lie and say I have extra homework to do, so I’d stay back in school and train afterwards. My dad is a lot more accepting of it now; he’s proud and actually sponsors our team. It’s definitely come a long way for me, personally and culturally.”
Through Nike’s empowering global campaign, Zarah hopes that more girls will be encouraged to get on board the active lifestyle. Seeing female athletes being recognised and positively represented is such a progressive step, and she adds, “When you see sportswomen on TV and see it becoming a part of daily life, it allows you to be determined. “If you like sports, go for it. Kick a ball around and you can actually get paid for it now – it’s amazing!”
Naila is excited about the growing and diverse football culture in Dubai. “Within our league, there are about nine other women’s teams. We’re just one team out of many in women’s football. This shows that there’s such a popular demand and growth of women’s football in this region.”
Nalia plays in the women’s and mixed leagues, participating in training and friendly matches throughout the week. She says the mixed league here is very inclusive but she feels that gender equality in sports has a long way to go yet. She believes Nike’s campaign can lead the way to empower more women. “I hope it also brings awareness that these sports exist for women in this region. If they join the groups, so many welcoming people will bring them into it.”
For Nadia, football is all about heart and hard work. Her training includes a lot of gym time, yoga and leg exercises. “You need to have the strength in your legs to be able to carry you through. I have an injury in my knee so I need to make sure that it protects my knee from further injury. And a lot of running too,” she says.
For those who want to get into football or any sport, Nadia’s simple advice is to just do it. “If it’s stair climbing or hiking or anything at all, just get out there and do it. Take the opportunity, because that’s the great thing about Dubai – there are so many places and so many options of activities to do. You have sunshine all the time. Get involved and keep a smile on your face.”
Learn more about the Nike women ‘What Will They Say About You’ campaign on the Sun & Sand Sports Blog, and check out our ‘How To’ series to master some new sports skills through our instructional videos. Don’t forget to sign up to the SSS newsletter for all the latest updates straight to your inbox, and find all your sporting gear at sssports.com.