Image used for illustrative purposes.
Dubai has announced a football league, the first of its kind, for prisoners serving sentences in the emirate.
Fourteen teams will participate in a six-player system and matches will be played at Al Awir Prison from April 7 to May 31. Meanwhile, the teams have begun their practice sessions and physical exercises inside the detention centers.
The Dubai Sports Council (DSC) and Dubai Police are collaborating to organize these matches that will be played by people in penitentiary and correctional institutions.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Brigadier Marwan Abdul Karim Julfar, Director of the General Department of Prisons and Corrections at Dubai Police, highlighted how learning can create a glimmer of joy in inmates, paving the way to 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 highlighted that a considerable amount of preparation goes into these people, including education, lifestyle adaptation and participation in sport, “with sport being an integral component.”
Brigadier Marwan Abdul Karim Julfar. Photo: Nandini Sircar
“The goal is for our ‘guests’ to leave equipped with beneficial skills for their future projects, becoming people who have acquired the ability to live harmoniously, learn and evolve alongside others. The aspiration is that they emerge as better people than their initial state.”
Julfar pointed out that practicing sports and participating in various workshops contribute to his transformation, gradually moving “from aggression to more positive behavior.”
He said: “Cooperation with others becomes evident, encouraging personal growth and evolution.”
The senior official said the initiative spans almost three months, meaning inmates serving longer prison sentences can participate in these matches. “Those who are serving time for minor offenses and will be with us for a few weeks or months will not be part of this league, as it is designed for people who stay for more than three months,” he added.
Salem Al Karbi, organizer of the event, said: “The arbitration process will be managed according to the rules of the UAE Football Federation. “This is the first official league that is held under the supervision of government entities.”
Training the inmates
In recent years, there have been collaborative efforts between the DSC and Dubai Police. This has involved providing sports equipment and establishing areas dedicated to sports activities within prison and correctional facilities.
Additionally, efforts have been made to train instructors within these institutions to train inmates as part of the “Inmate Sports Programme” initiated by the Dubai Sports Council in partnership with Dubai Police since 2017.
Nasser Aman Al Rahma. Photo: Nandini Sircar
Nasser Aman Al Rahma, deputy secretary general of the Dubai Sports Council, said this initiative came after the success of the Sports Inmate Programme.
He said: “Inmates of penitentiary and correctional facilities of all nationalities are part of society. Sport can help support their rehabilitation and return to society. Our previous programs achieved many achievements, notably the qualification of 1,800 inmates (men and women) in specialized courses. These qualifications acquired by more than 100 prisoners in specialized and accredited courses qualified them to work in the sports sector in their countries of origin upon their return.”
“In addition, 20 percent of the inmates practiced in their countries the sports professions in which they were trained. Twenty-three rehabilitation courses were organized between training and arbitration, and penitentiary institutions witnessed a 15 percent decrease in the percentage of inmates visiting the clinic,” Rahma added.
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