Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of Sharjah Women’s Sports (SWS), witnessed the opening ceremony of the fifth edition of Arab Women Sports Tournament (AWST) on Sunday.
A record number of 78 clubs from 18 Arab countries have participated in AWST 2020. The tournament is organised by SWS and runs until February 12 across various sporting venues in Sharjah.
Media sports personality, Mustafa Al Agha, was the official host of the opening ceremony, which took place at the Sharjah Sports Club. The inaugural proceedings began with the UAE National Anthem, followed by the official flag raising ceremony of participating countries and the official athletes and referees pledge. The ceremony also entertained audience and attendees with an attractive light shows and performances that highlighted the various offerings of AWST 2020 to the audience.
This was followed by AWST 2020 anthem ‘Arab Women’, performed by Extraordinaire Goodwill Ambassador and well-known Emirati singer, Hussain Al Jassmi. The anthem is an ode to the growing status of Arab women’s sports, and lauds Sharjah’s role as an incubator for female athletes.
Welcoming all participating Arab nations to Sharjah, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi highlighted the regional importance of the tournament, and the key role it plays in supporting sportswomen’s dreams and ambitions.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi thanked His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, for continuously supporting women through directives to provide all that is necessary to empower them in all fields.
Wishing all participants the best for AWST 2020, Her Highness noted: “Through your determination and intensive efforts, you and your peers in the Arab world have achieved many feats that make us proud. Arab sportswomen are successfully changing the realities of the region by following their dreams with resolve; rewriting traditional narratives of duty and achievement attributed to Arab women. This tournament furthers Sharjah’s commitment to making sports more inclusive and accessible to women, a pillar of the region’s development journey and a bridge between cultures.”
AWST 2020 has recorded the largest-ever GCC participation in the tournament’s history. The UAE tops this list with 15 clubs who will be competing across AWST’s nine sporting categories: shooting, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, athletics, show jumping, fencing, archery and karate. The next biggest participation is by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) with 12 clubs who are represented in all sports except shooting. A total of eight clubs from Bahrain will partake in all games excluding show jumping. Six Kuwaiti clubs are participating in shooting, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, athletics and karate, while three clubs from Oman will compete in shooting and athletics.
Sportswomen from six Jordanian clubs will be aiming for top spots in basketball, volleyball, table tennis, athletics, show jumping, and karate. Seven Algerian clubs will be represented in volleyball, table tennis, archery, karate, shooting and basketball categories, while Libya will participate in table tennis, athletics, and karate. Four clubs from Egypt will compete in shooting, basketball, table tennis, fencing and karate.
Three Syrian clubs will take part in volleyball, basketball and karate, while Sudanese athletes will compete in athletics, show jumping and archery. Palestinian sportswomen will test their might in athletics and karate. Iraq and Morocco too will participate in only one sport each, archery and table tennis, respectively. Lebanese and Union of the Comoros sportswomen will compete in showjumping.
The ceremony was attended by Dr Ashraf Sobhi, Minister of Youth and Sports in Egypt; Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Head of SOC; His Royal Highness Prince Talal bin Badr bin Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, President of the Arabian Sports Council (ASC) and Chairman of the Union of Arab National Olympic Committees (UANOC); HE Sheikha Hayat bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa, Chairperson of AWST’s Preparatory Committee; Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Sports Council; Eng. Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the Arab and UAE Fencing Federation; HE Nada Askar Al Naqbi, Deputy Head of the SOC of AWST, Head of the Executive Committee and Director General of SWS; and a host of high-profile officials and media representatives.
Today (Monday) sportswomen will compete in basketball, volleyball, karate, archery, and show jumping, followed by table tennis matches on Tuesday. Athletic competitions are scheduled for Saturday, February 8, followed by fencing on Sunday, February 9.
Future of Women Sports in Arab Media
On the side-lines of AWST, a session titled ‘Future of Women Sports in Arab Media’ on Tuesday, February 4, targeting Arab sports media professionals and influencers. The session is aimed at highlighting opportunities and challenges in women’s sports, and present suggestions to the media industry and decision-makers to augment their role in advancing women’s sports.
The Supreme Organising Committee (SOC) of AWST 2020 announced the inclusion of two new trophies: ‘Best Cheerleader Cup’ and ‘Best Audience Cup’, to complement the tournament’s Supremacy Cup, Excellence Cup and Fair Play Cup. In addition, AWST will honour the best committee operating under the executive committee of the tournament, as well as the best local sports union under the criteria of cooperation and involvement, and the best Arab sports union.
The SOC announced that 13 training and competetions facilities have been dedicated to AWST 2020, including six state-of-the-art competitions venues across Sharjah and seven venues that’ll be used by the teams for training.
The main sports and shooting halls at SWS will host team training sessions as well as basketball, volleyball and shooting competitions (rifle and pistol, 10m). Basketball training and competitions will take place at the Samnan branch of the Sharjah Sports Club, while its Al Hazzanah branch will host the karate, table tennis and fencing competitions.
The training and competitions in 25m pistol shooting will be held at Al Dhaid Sports Club, while Al Thiqah Club for Handicapped will host athletics and archery trainings and competitions. The Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club will host both training and show jumping competitions.
Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah, Wasit Youth Centre, University of Sharjah and the American University of Sharjah have been designated to host basketball and volleyball training and competitions. Sharjah Children (Al Jazat) and Sharjah Youth Centre will host training sessions in fencing, while karate training will be held at the Sharjah Self-defense Sports Club.
In his speech, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Head of SOC at AWST, said: “In Sharjah, we fully understand the important relationship between culture and sports, and its impact on society. The emirate has been keen to make sports a part of people’s everday development; something international sporting entities are already doing to build individuals’ capacities, advance their societies, and strengthen cooperation between cultures.”
“We are proud of AWST’s accomplishments, and laud the efforts of Arab sportswomen in ensuring their right to showcase their talent, skills and abilities are fulfilled. We wouldn’t be where are today without the continued support of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, in creating a nurturing and enabling environment for our local and regional sportswomen. We look forward to seeing the highest levels of professionalism and sporting spirit in all AWST games, which will strengthen the reality of Arab women’s sports” he concluded.
HE Sheikha Hayat bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa, Chairperson of AWST’s Preparatory Committee, said: “We meet again at this unique event, which was born from the vision of Her Higness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi. The tournament embodies Her Highness’s keenness to support women’s talents in a way that can enable inclusive and sustainable development, and benefit future generations.”
“AWST’s continued progress is a matter of pride for the entire Arab world. The tournament has crossed a new milestone this year with its largest-ever participation since its inception. These developments testify the progress made by Arab clubs, the major efforts of sporting clubs committees and the UAE federation in shaping AWST as a platform that readies our female athletes for prestigious international championships. We look forward to seeing AWST 2020 achieving all its intended goals for further consolidating the status of women’s sports in the Arab world,” she added.
Mustafa Al Agha said during the opening ceremony that by hosting this tournament, Sharjah emphasises that being sports is a communitywide right that must be enjoyed by all its members. He stressed that the emirate has a stellar track record on on-ground accomplishments through key initiatives that are born out of the vision of the Sharjah Ruler to advance the role of sports in advancing communities.