UAE Hockey Federation embarks on a mission to make top-class national team - GulfToday

UAE Hockey Federation embarks on a mission to make top-class national team


Players of Federation Youth Red pose for a picture with Ismail Ali Al Banna, Atiq Juma, Abdullah Murad, Raza Abidi and other dignitaries after the presentation.

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

As part of their plan to build a solid national team for the proposed high-profile international championship taking place in Dubai later this year, the UAE Hockey Federation (UAEHF) organised a tournament at the Shabab Al Ahli Club in Dubai recently.

The UAE Hockey Federation is planning to host an international tournament involving top European teams as well as arch-rivals India and Pakistan later this year, a few weeks into one of the most spectacular events this country has hosted: Expo 2020 Dubai.

And to get UAE players in shape ahead of the mega-event, UAEHF organised a tournament which attracted three teams featured international players – Field Hockey Academy Dubai, Federation Youth Red and Youth Green. Both Federation Youth Red and Youth Green teams are composed of UAE players and were fielded by the UAEHF.

The Mohammed Atiq-led Federation Youth Red emerged winners after defeating Federation Youth Green 2-1 on penalties for the crown. William Rhys Roberts, who plays for a Scottish club, captained Federation Green.

Prizes were given away by Ismail Ali Al Banna, President UAE Hockey Federation, along with Atiq Juma, General Secretary, and Abdullah Murad, General Manager of BB Sports Dubai.

Skipper Mohammed Atiq receives the trophy from Ismail Ali Al Banna in presence of Atiq Juma.

Rahul Rajendran of Federation Green team was adjudged Best Player of the tournament, while the best Emirati player award went to Ahmed Majid of the winning team.

The matches were supervised by professional umpires like Abid Naqi, from Pakistan, and UAE-based umpires Farooq Hikmat and Safdar Cheema.

Speaking to Gulf Today, Banna said: “We are doing our best to create a perfect national team. We are getting a lot of support from other people as well and taking advice from coaches of different UAE-based academies, to gain from their experiences.

“Having a solid national team capable of competing on the international stage is our target for the future of hockey,” he added.

The UAE Hockey Federation is also in talks with Shabab Al Ahli and Dubai Municipality to get a ground for the national players.

“I wish one day we will have our own playground so that we can encourage more and more young boys to come and train,” Banna said.

Juma added: “Having missed match practice for much of last year, we have to cash in on the opportunities we get. It is good for us that we are tested against a tough opponent like Field Hockey Academy.

“We are working hard in our training camps and tried our best to recreate the intensity of a high-stakes international match.”

Despite playing for a Scottish club, William harbours dreams of representing UAE on the international stage.

After spending many years in the UAE, William went to Edinburgh for higher studies. He travelled back to the country just to play in the tournament.

“I am so happy to be involved in this tournament… it’s great for the UAE and for the hockey federation. I hope to see it grow and become more popular here. I study at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh and whilst I play for a club in Scotland, my dream is to play full international hockey for the UAE, the country that has become my second home and one that holds a special place in my heart, which is why I travel back to train and play.

”We hope as a federation to tour as a team and play clubs in Europe with the aim of hosting an international hockey federation tournament around Expo 2020 featuring hockey’s best nations,” he added.

William’s father Richard Roberts also played for Dubai Hockey Club. “It’s great to see William playing hockey and becoming a UAE international player. He is very proud of his UAE background and having played for UAE schools in the Asian federation tournament in India in 2017,” said Richard.

Craig West, owner and head coach of Field Hockey Academy, was grateful to be invited by the UAE Federation to play in the friendly matches, although the results did not favour them as his team finished third.

“We were extremely grateful to be invited to play in the tournament and although the results did not go our way, our players got some valuable experience in competitive hockey.

“It was a great opportunity for them to learn some lessons regarding what we need to focus on to improve our players’ ability to perform at a competitive level,” said West, who is a Level 2 accredited coach with 18 years of hockey coaching experience.”

Raza Abidi, chief coordinator of the UAE Hockey Federation, thanked the Asian Hockey Federation and  International Hockey Federation for their support to the tournament.

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