Dubai announces first football league for prison inmates

Fourteen teams will participate, with six players on each side, in matches held at Al Awir Prison


Nandini Sircar

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Image used for illustrative purpose.
Image used for illustrative purpose.

Published: Wed 31 Jan 2024, 7:26 PM

Dubai has announced a first-of-its-kind football league for prisoners serving their sentences in the emirate.

Fourteen teams will participate in a six-player system, and the matches will be held at Al Awir Prison from April 7 to May 31. Meanwhile, the teams have started their practice sessions and physical exercises inside the detention centres.

The Dubai Sports Council (DSC) and Dubai Police are collaborating to organise these matches that people in penal and correctional institutions will play.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Brigadier Marwan Abdul Karim Julfar, Director of the General Department of Punitive and Correctional Establishments at Dubai Police, highlighted how learning can create a flicker of joy for inmates, paving the way for a redemptive future.

He said, “As part of our initiatives for our 'guests’, a term we prefer to use when addressing them, we aim to equip these people for life beyond their time in prison.”

He stressed that a considerable amount of preparation is dedicated to these individuals, including education, lifestyle adjustments, and involvement in sports, “with sports being an integral component”.

Brigadier Marwan Abdul Karim Julfar. Photo: Nandini Sircar
Brigadier Marwan Abdul Karim Julfar. Photo: Nandini Sircar

“The objective is for our 'guests' to depart equipped with skills beneficial for their future endeavours, transforming into individuals who have acquired the ability to coexist harmoniously, learn, and evolve alongside others. The aspiration is for them to emerge as better individuals than their initial state.”

Positive shift

Julfar pointed out that engagement in sports and participation in various workshops contribute to their transformation, gradually shifting “from aggression to a more positive demeanour.”

He said, “Cooperation with others becomes apparent, fostering personal growth and evolution.”

The senior official said the initiative spans nearly three months, which means inmates serving longer prison terms get to participate in these matches. “Those who are serving a term for minor offences and will be with us for a few weeks or months will not be part of this league, as it’s designed for individuals staying for more than three months,” he added.

Salem Al Karbi, Event Organiser, said, “The arbitration process will be managed by the rules of the UAE Football Federation. This is the first official league being held under the supervision of the government entities.”

Coaching inmates

In recent years, there have been collaborative efforts between the DSC and Dubai Police. This has involved providing sports equipment and establishing dedicated areas for sports activities within penal and correctional facilities.

Additionally, endeavours have been made to train instructors from within these institutions to coach inmates as part of the “Sports Inmates Program” initiated by the Dubai Sports Council in partnership with Dubai Police since 2017.

Nasser Aman Al Rahma. Photo: Nandini Sircar
Nasser Aman Al Rahma. Photo: Nandini Sircar

Nasser Aman Al Rahma, Assistant Secretary-General of the Dubai Sports Council, said this initiative came after the success witnessed by the Sports Inmates Programme.

He said, “Inmates of penal and correctional Establishments of all nationalities are part of society. Sports can contribute to supporting their rehabilitation and their return to society. Our earlier programmes achieved many gains, most notably the qualification of 1,800 inmates (male and female) in specialised courses. Such qualifications acquired by more than 100 male and female inmates in specialised and accredited courses qualified them to work in the sports sector in their home countries upon return.”

“Additionally, 20 per cent of the inmates practised in their countries the sports professions in which they were trained. Twenty-three rehabilitation courses were organised between training and arbitration, and penal institutions witnessed a 15 per cent decrease in the percentage of inmates’ visits to the clinic,” added Rahma.


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