Saudi Arabia’s first female football referee already has her sights set on taking charge of a World Cup match.
“I spend hours reading and listening to advice from refereeing experts,” 22-year-old Sham Al-Ghamdi told Arab News. “To referee a World Cup match would be a dream come true.”
Al-Ghamdi, who is studying English literature at university, said her interest in football began when she was only nine.
“One day I saw players in a match voice their anger at a referee’s decision. I wished at that moment I was in the referee’s shoes,” she said.
“Since then I have been following football events on TV, listening to the pundits’ comments and analyzing the performance of the referee.”
Al-Ghamdi’s passion for football came as a surprise to her family.
“My father is not interested in football. When he heard about my hobby, he only advised me to avoid injuries as much as I could. He cannot bear seeing me hurt,” she said.
The young referee hopes to undertake more intensified training courses to help her dream of officiating a World Cup match come true.
“I am optimistic and ambitious. The sky is the limit,” she said. “I have enough information about officiating matches. I read about all the old and modern rules approved by the FIFA in order to acquire the basic skills an amateur referee needs.”
Al-Ghamdi said that she had learned to manage football matches through personal participation and by watching experienced referees.
When she faced difficulties getting the necessary official permits, she focused on refereeing friendly matches.
“I did my best to avoid mistakes in the first-ever women’s championship in Jeddah. Good referees ensure safe games,” she said.
“Now I am happy that my dream to become a referee has come true. Saudi women can achieve success in the sports sector and they can take part in world championships. We are no less than men. We only need support,” she said.
Al-Ghamdi said that she hopes to gain recognition from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) and become a FIFA-certified international football referee.
Saudis should work hand in hand to improve standards in science, culture and sport, she said.
“We need to support one another to develop our society on all levels. Without that we can’t make the changes we are dreaming of,” she added.