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According to Mr. al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates is introducing martial arts and other sports to schoolgirls, the better to combat rising rates of obesity and diabetes. With government backing, the women’s soccer team has taken training trips to Switzerland and Germany and imported opponents from Montenegro and Uzbekistan.

Last year, the squad recorded its first significant international victory, upsetting Jordan 1-0 in the West Asian Football Federation championship - a match played in Abu Dhabi on live national television - before an audience that included men.

“I always played [soccer] with the boys,” said Ms. al-Nuaimi, the 22-year-old striker. “Since I was 4 years old. Now those boys are cheering for me.

“It was a very big thing to us and the whole country. They knew we could play and that we could win, that we could be champions.”

As much as Ms. al-Nuaimi loves Brazil’s Marta, she looks forward to the day she can flip on a television and pull instead for one of her countrywomen.

“This is the first step, and I’m very happy to be the first,” she said. “I can’t wait to take what I learned in America back to my country and tell other girls my story. I know they will be excited and want to join the team. There’s a whole world outside waiting for us.”