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QATAR is fielding a women’s team for the first time in the Bahrain Open, the inaugural round of the World Junior Table Tennis Championship series being held at the Umm Al Hassam Sports Complex.

The three-member team, led by Maha Faramarzi, are lined up with some of the world’s best youngsters in this five-day event, being organised in Bahrain for the third consecutive year.

Maha, who turned 16 last month, is competing in the junior girls along with 15-year-old compatriot Aya Al Ansari.

The team’s third member – Khulood Ahmed, who is just 12 years old, is also in the fray but as a sub player.

Managing the Qatari team is a 37-year-old coach Angelica Shemet who has been with this squad since 2003 while heading the Qatari delegation is team manager Jamila Al Hamad.

Jamila said women’s table tennis activities in Qatar started in 2001 and two years later the Qatari table tennis associations has formed its first national team.

“Our team have been training for almost three months as we were originally due to participate in this month’s Sharjah Women’s Championships, which was however, cancelled so we decided to take part in the Bahrain tournament,” said Jamila.

“The same players have been part of the team which was found in 2003. They took part in several competitions and since then we felt the improvement in their performance,” she added.

Among top events that Qatar’s young women took part were the 2006 Doha Open, one round of the World Junior Table Tennis Championship which was their debut on the international level.

“We had taken part in many regional and international tournaments which were quite useful for the girls and in the Bahrain Open, we are looking to help the team get more experience before competing in the 2009 Doha Open which will take place right after this event,” said Jamila.

“In this event we were suppose to send five players instead of three but the other two – Noora Al Ibri and Hussa Al Hamad – were unable to make this trip due to personal commitments.”

But the Qatari team’s best achievement was coming first in the team and singles categories during the GCC Schools Championship held in Bahrain two years ago at the Juffair Youth Centre. The team also had good results in the last edition of the Arab Games staged in Cairo in November, 2007.

“The team have been receiving great support from the Qatari Olympic Committee and the government but in general women’s sports in Qatar need more awareness among the locals who are still against the idea of seeing Qatari women competing in different disciplines.”

According to Jamila, this mentality is a major barrier for the officials at the Qatar Table Tennis Association as its very difficult at finding talented girls, hoping to see more support from the Qatari society to give the opportunity to women representing their country in regional and international championships.


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