The Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport played host on 13 and 14 February to the first Arab Women’s Rugby Championship and the 7th Men’s Arab Rugby Championship. Egyptian national teams took the gold medal and first place in both events.
In the men’s event, eight national teams competed all through the two days: Egypt, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Libya. Egypt won the gold after blanking Lebanon in the final 14-0. It was the second title for the Egyptian team; the first was in 2019.
In the women’s event, three national teams in addition to hosts Egypt, competed against Lebanon, Syria and the UAE. Egypt was able to overcome Syria in the final to take the first Arab women’s championship.
It has to be noted that the Egyptian rugby national team for women is newly born, formed just at the beginning of this year. “Rugby is a very nice sport and I started to play it in my university, GUC, and we were able to form a national team to represent our country and be able to compete in coming events,” Yara Ayman explained. “Rugby is completely different from American football and it is not as harsh for women as I heard before joining the team.”
Hossam Saheb, head of the Egyptian Rugby Federation, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the men’s team took part in the Arab Championship five times before this sixth event but it is the first participation for the women’s team. “I am very happy because the championship was a success and we are looking forward to winning a medal at the African qualifications to take place next October for both the men’s and women’s teams. I am also very proud that we have won the admiration of Khaled Babou, head of the African Rugby Federation and a member of the board at the International Rugby Federation for the excellent organisation of the Arab Championship which was monitored for the first time by three Arab observers who will report to the African Federation. I think that with the good feedback from the event, we will be able to bid to host the African qualifications in Egypt which acts as a qualifier for the World Cup to be held next year in France,” Saheb told the Weekly.
According to Saheb, Egypt is ranked in level two and that is why they are working hard with the help of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to move to level one. “That is why we were able to hire a Moroccan coach for the men’s team. And due to the Covid-19 halt, the Egyptian National Team was not able to participate in any international events in the past year but we will try our best to take part in any of the three international championships that will take part this year in France, Spain and Portugal to gain international experience,” Saheb added.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 February, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly