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EXCLUSIVE | Arab Rugby Federation Chairman speaks to KingFut
Arab Rugby Federation Chairman Qais Abdulla Al Dhalai speaks to KingFut about the ambitions of the association regarding the sport in the Arab world.
Al Dhalai was present at El-Gouna, watching over the first ever Arab Rugby 7s tournament to be held in Egypt, where the participating countries included United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the hosting nation.
Al Dhalai, who is also the president of the United Arab Emirates Rugby Federation, revealed to KingFut the reason behind the initiation of the ARF.
“A main reason to the creation of an Arab Federation for Rugby was the Pan Arab games. We had thought of participating in the competition but we had to have a federation to do so.
“After that I contacted Rugby Federation presidents from most Arab countries like Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon. We came to an agreement and the federation was created,” Al Dhalai explained.
“We have many experienced countries on our side, such as Morocco who have been playing the game for over 100 years now.
Regarding his relationship with the sport, Al Dhalai revealed a detail about himself which should surprise many.
“When I was young I actually used to play football. I played for all age levels until the Emirati Olympic national team and with Al Wasl SC. I was even included in the second draft for the 2007 youth World Cup.
“But I fell in love with Rugby and was later proudly chosen by the UAE’s Ministry of Youth and Sports to represent the Rugby Federation. I was even given the honor of representing my country at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Qais seemed to talk with so much passion about Rugby and he had a very convincing reason to explain why he prefers the sport over any other, including the one he had grown up practicing.
“Rugby is a game for everyone. It involves athleticism, your hands and legs are both highly involved in the game, it doesn’t matter what your size is, you’ll get a position on the team. It encourages personal bonding between teammates and is actually a very fun sport. I guarantee that if you’d play just one match you’ll fall in love with it too,” said the former Al Wasl player.
On the organization of the event, the Chairman had some very kind words and praise reserved.
“Everything was perfect from the moment we arrived in Egypt. The organization of the tournament is excellent thanks to the Egyptian Rugby Football Union and their vice-president Hassan Khaled. We are very pleased to be here in Egypt.
The Arab Rugby 7s tournament was supposed to be originally held in Lebanon but they decided to withdraw from the event due to several reasons.
“Lebanon had played in two Rugby tournaments prior to this one in the past two weeks, with one of them being in India. In addition to five of their players getting injured, therefore it was almost impossible for them to travel to Egypt and have a fully fit squad in time.
“It was always a choice of who to host the tournament between Egypt and Lebanon. In addition to the reason I stated, Lebanon’s political situation at the moment is not that stable so we did not want to be a burden on them.
Al Dhalai confirmed none of the participating countries had any safety concerns about coming to Egypt for the tournament.
“We had no safety worries before arriving here. We spoke to our good friends in the ERFA and they confirmed to us that Egypt is safe and indeed it is. El-Gouna is the perfect venue for such an event, far away from all the crowded areas in Egypt. El-Gouna was always going to be the destination,” the Arab Rugby Federation Chairman concluded.