POSTED: May 2nd 2012
New Women's League a big boost for hoopsters
Aju George Chris / Doha Stadium Plus
DOHA: The 22 players, clad in national team colours, never once stopped to take a break from training despite the game beginning almost an hour late. They passed the ball around, did complex manoeuvres and high-fived one another on scoring during trials. Their enthusiasm was infectious.
The occasion was the launch of the inaugural Qatar Women’s League (QWL) at the Qatar Women’s Sport Committee (QWSC) Indoor Hall last week. The competition, organised in association with the Q-Sports Leagues, is yet another step in the country’s larger vision to develop women’s sports.
It is a significant development, especially when there are still many sections in the region who argue against women playing sports. In stark contrast, Qatar will field women athletes for the first time at this year’s London Olympics.
In fact, empowerment of women is one of the main features of Doha’s 2020 Olympic Bid. Understandably, the new initiative delighted its CEO Noora Al Mannai.
“It’s great to see so many girls of different ages participate in the QWL. Such events highlight the great interest among Qataris in sports. We’re delighted to create new sports opportunities for women. These competitors are wonderful role models for the younger generation.
“Sports can help break barriers and empower women. I hope they realise their dream of playing at an Olympics in front of cheering home fans,” said Al Mannai.
Qatar’s national teams should be the QWL’s biggest beneficiaries. It provides them with a platform to compete regularly.
The Qatar senior team’s American coach Eric Carr welcomed the move.
“My wards train a lot, but hardly take part in competitive matches. There’s a limit for practice sessions and camps. Without games, training becomes repetitive and boring. The QWL is going to help them,” he said.
“The QWL effect was almost instantaneous. They started training for it in right earnest. Now, they’ve a sense of purpose. The players began to reach in time for practice sessions. The QWL has given them something to look forward to,” he added.
Qatar captain Warda Murgan, arguably the best player in the squad, said she felt motivated.
“Agreed, practice makes perfect. But without even internal competitions, how does one know how perfect the players are? We’ve been training and training and training, but it’s all useless without games. Even if the QWL is just six weeks long, it has several expatriate players in it. Competing against them will hone our skills,” she said.
The national team’s last competitive outing was at the Doha Arab Games in December.
While the senior team has had some competition experience, the youth side is new. Their coach Maissa Yousuf felt more children were warming up to the sport.
“We’re working with Naseeba bint Kaabi and Umm bin Hamad schools to promote basketball. We’ve 120 Qatari girls in two age groups, seven to nine and 10 to 11. If at least half of them take up the game seriously, it’ll give us a wider pool to select the national team from,” she said.
Senior national team manager Salha Masoud Al Naimi said plans were on to seek help from clubs to start their own women’s teams.
“Al Gharafa fielded a QWL team and they sport the club’s official jerseys and kits. We’re hoping to rope in Al Sadd and Al Rayyan soon. We’re also in talks with them to start their own women’s teams. We’ll then think of starting a separate elite league for them,” Salha said.
The initiative has McDonalds Qatar as the main sponsor. ILoveqatar.net and Go Sport are co-sponsors.
However, there are some areas for improvement. The women’s national teams do not come under the Qatar Basketball Federation (QBF) and is managed by the QWSC.
“They approach us only when they want to participate in competitions outside Qatar. We tried to help them with training plans, but they weren’t co-operative,” said a QBF source.
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