First female Saudi football referee eyes World Cup

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Sham Al-Ghamdi bein interviewed after refereeing the first women football championship match in Jeddah. (Supplied)
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Sham Al-Ghamdi bein interviewed after refereeing the first women football championship match in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Updated 11 October 2019

First female Saudi football referee eyes World Cup

  • Sham Al-Ghamdi hopes to gain recognition from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and become a FIFA-certified international football referee.

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.   


Almulla and Salhab give thumbs-up for inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship

Saudi Arabia will hold its first-ever women’s professional golf tournament in March when the Saudi Ladies Championship tees off at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
Updated 25 January 2020

Almulla and Salhab give thumbs-up for inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship

  • Record prize money of $19.87 million for the LET 2020 season offered

JEDDAH: Saudi golfers Othman Almulla and Faisal Salhab have said they cannot wait for the Saudi Ladies Championship to happen in the Kingdom, after a UK newspaper confirmed the tournament was one of three new events added to the Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule.

The Daily Telegraph said the Ladies European Tour would offer record prize money of £15.2 million ($19.87 million) for the 2020 season, an increase of almost £4 million on last year. The cash injection comes in part due to having three new events, all offering prize money of at least $1 million, including the inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship to be held in March.
The exclusive report said there would be 24 events on the LET this year, an increase of four from last year. In addition to the Saudi tournament and the Scandinavian Mixed event, the third event to have a prize pot of over $1 million will be a new event to be held in the UK in August, ahead of the Ladies Scottish Open and the Women’s Open.
Almulla and Faisal will both tee off alongside the biggest names in golf in the Saudi International, which starts next Thursday at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).
Almulla, who turned professional during the inaugural staging of the Saudi International last year, is playing on a pro invite while the 23-year-old Riyadh-based Faisal qualified following his victory in the 5th Saudi Open at the Riyadh Golf Course in November last year.  
Saud Alsharif, from the Eastern Province like Almulla, completes the Saudi trio in action in the Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 European Tour event. Alsharif earned his second straight stint in the tournament by virtue of his top ranking.
Almulla, a decorated amateur golfer and the youngest to qualify for the Dubai Desert Classic before another Saudi, Khaled Attieh, broke his record, told Arab News: “I think it’s a wonderful time for the sport of golf in Saudi Arabia, with the big developments the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi have put in place.”
“We already see the rewards of their ambitious plans with the first-ever female participation in an international event at the Pan Arab and GCC Championships in Egypt and Oman this year.
“And now with the first-ever ladies professional golf championship happening in Saudi Arabia, this will further motivate and inspire the next generation of golfers to continue improving,” Almulla added.
Salhab, who just ended a training camp with Alsharif and coach Jamie McConnell, director of instruction at the Claude Harmon Golf Academy in Dubai, said: “It’s great to have a Ladies European Tour event in Saudi Arabia. It emphasizes how the game is growing.
“It’s unreal to have such big events for men and women hosted in the Kingdom and hopefully inspire the next generation of golfers to pick up the sport.
“By having an event like this one take place in our backyard will hopefully expose many women to learn about the beautiful game,” Salhab added.
The Saudi Ladies Championship, professional golf’s newest high-profile tournament being hosted by the country, will take place March 19 to 22 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club under the aegis of the LET and the Saudi Golf Federation.
Golf Saudi announced last month that it was working with several LET stars to promote golf to local audiences, and to enhance the visibility of its Saudi golf development program and the country’s golf tourism. The UK’s Carly Booth, Amy Boulden and Rachel Drummond, and Swedish pair Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert, will each wear the Golf Saudi logo as ambassadors of the program.