Women’s Football Takes Center Stage in Saudi Arabia

The FIFA's Football for Schools Programme in Jeddah is the reason Saudi Arabia has emerged as an hub for inclusive football in celebration of shared goals. Photo: FIFA

In a remarkable transformation, Saudi Arabia has emerged as an unexpected hub for inclusive football, where girls and boys unite in celebration of their shared goals. 

From regional centres to empowered coaches, Saudi Arabian girls are changing the game as vibrant scenes unfolded at the recent launch of FIFA’s Football for Schools Programme in Jeddah on 18 October, 2023.

Just a few years ago, such scenes would have been unimaginable in a nation where football was predominantly a male pursuit and mixed-gender activities were a rarity. Now, with four regional training centres, 40 courses empowering female educators, and three active women’s national teams, Saudi Arabia’s football landscape has undergone a sweeping evolution. 

“Today, we have four regional training centres across the country… We now have three active women’s national teams, and a department comprising 23 staff who work to develop the women’s football pyramid.” 

Ibrahim Alkassim, General Secretary of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF)

This shift isn’t confined to the pitch alone, with the Head of the Women’s Football Department at the SAFF, emphasised that this growth mirrors broader societal changes. 

“I genuinely believe that the growth we are seeing in women’s football in Saudi Arabia is one of the most exciting stories in world football.”

Aalia Abdulaziz AlRasheed, Head of the Women’s Football Department at the SAFF

The launch event saw male and female coaches and schoolchildren united in purpose, exemplifying the solidarity crucial to fostering accessibility and strengthening the country’s educational fabric through football’s core values. This ethos lies at the heart of the Football for Schools initiative.

Fatimata Sidibe, Director of the FIFA Football for Schools Programme, lauded the SAFF’s progress, calling it a beacon of hope for FIFA member associations worldwide. “Such outstanding progress lays the groundwork to develop football and life skills,” she noted.

Over 120 physical education teachers and coach educators were enriched by the expertise of Football for Schools Manager Antonio Buenaño Sánchez, and women’s football experts Susan Ronan Martin and Thuba Sibanda. 

These educators will play a vital role in spreading the benefits of the initiative, instilling a positive and passionate approach to the game while imparting practical skills for children’s education and development.

Sidibe emphasized, “Physical education teachers and coaches will be able to pass on their knowledge to their pupils, helping them to become better citizens and agents for positive social change.”

Beyond education, the initiative also serves as a talent incubator, with promising young players already showcasing their skills during the launch day’s friendly matches, training sessions, and ball games.

As General Secretary Alkassim jests, the SAFF now contemplates whether it will be the men’s or women’s national team that secures their first World Cup victory. 

Regardless, the stage is set for a future filled with anticipation and promise. Saudi Arabia’s football renaissance stands as a testament to the power of change, uniting communities, and forging a path for generations to come.

Photo Caption: The FIFA’s Football for Schools Programme in Jeddah is the reason Saudi Arabia has emerged as an hub for inclusive football in celebration of shared goals. Photo: FIFA

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Launched in 2006, gsport exists to enhance the commercial prospects of our women athletes, and other women in sport, by telling the inspiring story of SA women in sport. Thank you for your contribution!

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