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How Budreya Faisal is looking to rejuvenate UAE women’s football with Banaat FC

DUBAI: Surrounded by football memorabilia in her office on Jumeirah Beach Road, Budreya Faisal is plotting the rebirth of women’s football in the UAE.

On Aug. 28, Emirati Women’s Day, she launched Banaat FC, a new Dubai-based club that is looking to push back the stagnation that has seeped into the women’s game over the last decade.

“Rise. Represent. Reclaim,” is the club’s motto.

But Banaat’s origin story has some plot twists.

The big idea of the CEO and owner of sports marketing agency Ghost Concept had, initially, little to do with women’s football. Or indeed any “real" football team at all.

“I was on my way from Egypt, and I decided I was going to do something crazy, which was start a fake football club that only exists online,” Faisal told Arab News. “I’d actually recruit micro influencers from the community as our players and create fake background stories and experience, and then create fake transfers and rivalries, and use AI as well to support with imagery. Boost this club up to a point where it becomes so cool that I can get sponsors for it and set an actual benchmark for how clubs in the Arab world should be operating.”

It was meant to be her way of showing regional clubs that, in marketing terms, “it’s time for you to wake up” and realize your potential.

Quickly, however, her targets changed.

“I was so excited,” she said. “And then I felt guilty immediately after the insane excitement because that effort wasn’t going towards someone that needed it. I thought I’ll take a third division men’s club, and transform that club. Women’s (clubs) didn’t even cross my mind at that point.”

There was a light bulb moment when she came across an Instagram account dedicated to women’s football in the UAE.

“The day