Sunday 26 November 2023, 10:00

Banaat FC - Changing the future of Emirati women’s football

  • Budreya Faisal was inspired to form a women’s club after scrolling through Instagram

  • Her aim is for Banaat FC to become the country’s first professional women’s club with its own stadium

  • The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ and Morocco’s Nahila Benzina were both cited as motivations to create a step-change in the UAE

28 August each year marks a milestone in the United Arab Emirates: Emirati Women’s Day. This date will also remain etched in the memory of businesswoman Budreya Faisal for another reason: the day she officially announced the creation of Banaat FC. Choosing this date was nothing but a happy coincidence for the sports marketing professional who had previously worked at the Dubai Sports Council and at the UAE Professional League, as well as with a range of Arab players and clubs, including Egyptian giants Al Ahly. From her office, decorated with jerseys of numerous famous global clubs, alongside trophies and footballs, Budreya spoke to about the steps she has taken to contribute towards the development of women’s football in the UAE.

“I never planned to work in women’s football; it was just a coincidence,” Budreya said of Banaat FC’s creation. “I was working on a crazy idea to create a virtual team on social media, but after I browsed through an Instagram account specialising in women’s football in UAE, I asked myself: why not create a club that would impact the entire women’s game in the UAE instead of investing time and effort into a fictitious club that wouldn’t directly benefit or represent any party or people? "I presented the idea to my friend Maria Khan, captain of the Pakistan women's national team and asked her what it would take to establish a club,” she added. “From this point, Banaat FC was born.”

The impact of the FIFA Women's World Cup

Budreya was unequivocal about the impact of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, as she reflected on the development of the women’s game in recent years. She also had special praise for the accomplishments of the Moroccan national team, which inspired an even greater personal motivation for her club to create a step-change in the UAE women's football scene.

“In recent years, I have followed the development of the FIFA Women's World Cup and the game’s increasing influence, witnessing the ever-growing demand to play and watch it around the world,” she continued. “The participation of the first woman to wear a hijab [Morocco’s Nahila Benzina] was a wonderful moment for us and we were so proud. “It’s great to see the positive changes in women’s football and this drives me even further to alter people’s perception of the game here and make a positive difference."

The first woman to wear a hijab [Morocco’s Nahila Benzina] was a wonderful moment for us. The positive changes in women’s football drive me even further to alter people’s perception of the game.

Budreya Faisal - Banaat FC

Breaking barriers

Banaat FC compete in the UAE Women’s League which kicked off this season on 28 October. Despite the spread of the game and the presence of many academies where girls practice football, the establishment of the club did not pass without obstacles. Budreya considers the image of women’s football in Emirati society to be the main barrier she has faced since the club’s foundation but is hopeful this will change in the near future. “In the UAE, customs and tradition cast a shadow over the women’s game as many consider it incompatible with our conservative principles,” she explained. “My goal is to change this idea and prove that we can be a women's football club which also respects customs and traditions, something I always encourage the girls in our club to do.

“Another obstacle we face is the absence of bespoke facilities, as we use stadiums of men’s teams. This is something I also aspire to change in the future by establishing a private stadium in the centre of Dubai,” she added. “Through this, we can attract new investment to the club and provide a special matchday experience for spectators. “My goal is for Banaat FC to become the first fully professional women’s club in the Emirates. We are currently sharing what we are doing with many active women in wider Emirati society too, to generate innovative ideas to promote the game." Now her most important challenge remains to garner the support of the Emirati community for the game, and for the women who play the game to prove that Football Unites the World.

“Currently, women’s football is a source of division in the Emirates,” she explained. “One day I hope this matter will disappear. That women’s football will be able to unite people and the idea of women playing football will be both accepted, and respected. “The future development of women’s football is my goal. If I manage to convince only 5 per cent of people to respect and support it, Banaat FC will have left a positive legacy,” concluded Budreya.

Did you Know?

FIFA, in partnership with several United Nations agencies, used the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ to highlight a range of social causes, selected following extensive consultation with stakeholders including players and the 32 participating member associations.

Football Unites the World