As a hockey fan myself, I get super excited when someone mentions something NHL related. I went to a few Haringey Racers games at Alexander Palace and though it was fun, I knew that I always wanted to head over to the States or Canada to catch some serious games.
For one girl out there, this finally became a reality. Fatima Al Ali plays for the UAE women’s national team, a country which, as you may have guessed, it a little too warm for ice hockey and very little prominence is given to the game. Last November, Peter Bondra, a former scorer for the Washington Capitals, was in Abu Dhabi to coach the Pavlikovsky Hockey School programme at the Zayed Sports Ice Rink. The school is designed to help youth players with their skills, and one youth in particular caught his eye.
Fatima’s love for the game started from a young age with her addiction to watching the Mighty Ducks. Since then, the idea of playing pro remained a dream for her. It wasn’t until 2008 that she came across a mens tournament that it started to grow; she showed up with her camera at the game (did I mention she’s also a professional sports photographer? Check out her work here!). Some two years later, a women’s team was established and at the insistence of the team, she began to play.
“I just fell in love with the game,” she said. “It almost just makes me alive, makes me have energy, excited. I don’t know — I feel like I’m home. That’s my place. This is where I should be. So from that time, I cannot stay away from the rink,” she said in an interview.
Fatima’s hockey skills went viral, after she showed off her skills to Bondra, who later shared it on his Twitter page. Since then, she was given the surprise of her life, courtesy of Etihad Airways, MSE’s Monumental Global Academies and the Washington Capitals. They gifted her with two tickets on Etihad Airways, a jersey with her name, and a chance to visit the Capitals in Washington.
*Click the image below to watch the video*
Hockey is for Everyone uses the game of hockey – and the League’s global influence – to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities. As February is generally the month in which this is celebrated, the Washington Capital’s brought Fatima over to catch a game with them, and to meet her favourite player, Alex Ovechkin.
Needless to say, she is nothing short of awesome, and has definitely given the team their money’s worth!
Is this Washington’s way of starting to make peace, in a little scoop of hockey diplomacy? Who knows, and who cares, because quite frankly, this hijabi is impressed. Now it would be awesome if someone arranged for me to fly over to meet the Detroit Red Wings, and to possibly catch up with Henrik Zetterberg, preferably ahead of tonights game, so I can meet Fatima there?
BY AFRAH MANSOUR