'We enjoy proving them wrong': UAE girl gamers take esports world by storm

Maryam Ali and Shama Al Mansouri proudly represent the UAE on a global scale, shattering stereotypes

By Waad Barakat

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Maryam Ali and Shama Al Mansouri
Maryam Ali and Shama Al Mansouri

Published: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 10:40 PM

In a world where gaming is often seen as a 'boys only' club, two Emirati girls, Maryam Ali and Shama Al Mansouri, are rewriting the rules and proving that girls can dominate the esports scene too. Starting as gaming buddies with their brothers, these fierce ladies have levelled up their skills to compete on a global scale, proudly representing the UAE.

From late-night gaming marathons to facing down stereotypes, their journey is one of passion, determination, and a whole lot of girl power.

The early years

Maryam Ali and Shama Al Mansouri discovered their love for gaming at a young age, joining forces with their brothers to conquer virtual worlds. From the tender ages of 8 and 9, they engaged in epic battles and embarked on thrilling quests alongside their male counterparts. What began as a hobby soon transformed into a shared passion that would shape their destinies.

“I don’t even remember when I started gaming but because all my family are gamers, I grew up [playing]. I started playing co-op games and story games at a very young age, and just progressed to more and more complicated games,” 20-year-old Shama said.

The two gamers spoke to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Dubai Police’s Esports Tournament.

To ascend to the ranks of top-tier gamers, Maryam and Shama understood the importance of dedication. Balancing college life with their gaming ambitions, these determined girls hustled throughout the day, attending classes and hitting the books. But when the clock struck 5pm, it was game on. They delved into the virtual realm, practising their skills until the early hours of the morning.

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“We would spend three hours with our couch practising a new strategy, or mastering a new gun, or even just refining our aim,” said Shamma.

Overcoming challenges

Navigating the male-dominated world of gaming presented its fair share of obstacles for Maryam and Shama. They encountered doubters who believed that girls couldn't hold their own in the virtual world.

“Middle Eastern girl gamers do face challenges. The challenges are not in the real-life scene, but since we don't only sign up for female-only tournaments, I feel like most of the time our opponents underestimate us. So, we enjoy proving them wrong," said Maryam.

Undeterred by the obstacles, these ladies used every opportunity to prove themselves. Each time they grasped a controller or a mouse, they were determined to showcase their skills — and they delivered. Their power spoke volumes silencing the haters. They shattered stereotypes, demonstrating that gaming talent transcends gender boundaries.

Maryam and Shama's talent and hard work paid off grandly when they played with Shaheen Esports team at Redbull gaming tournament. Despite contending with a less-than-ideal Wi-Fi connection, they fought tooth and nail, securing an impressive second-place finish. Their outstanding performance was a true power play!

The two Emirati girls want to shatter stereotypes by letting their game do the talking. They want their journey to empower girls to fearlessly pursue their gaming dreams, “knowing they can excel just as brilliantly as their male counterparts”. By challenging norms and forging a path, Maryam and Shama want to pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse esports world, where talent and passion triumph over gender stereotypes.

Maryam Ali and Shama Al Mansouri were not alone — they were among the other female participants at the police tournament. The Dubai Police organised the event to raise awareness about cyberbullying and safe gaming practices while providing gamers with a unique opportunity to showcase their skills.

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