For the love of the game: Saudi women’s football teams ready to return

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Updated 13 July 2020

For the love of the game: Saudi women’s football teams ready to return

  • ‘The Kingdom has transformed massively in every way when it comes to female sports in general’

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s female football players are gearing up for a return to the pitch after months of lockdown.

The coronavirus curfew had a massive impact on the sports industry, from gym closures to teams stopped from group training. But the growth project in the Kingdom’s sports sector, women’s football clubs, have found generous support from the Saudi Football Federation that enabled teams to gain more knowledge until they were ready to return to action.
A financial analyst by day and coach and manager by afternoon, Maram Al-Butairi said that football had always been a special sport for women in the Kingdom. The Eastern Flames’ manager helped establish one of the Eastern Province’s top teams and found great interest from many women around her.
“I was surprised to hear my friend’s mother telling a story of how she and her friends and cousins used to play football in one of the fields and having a league,” she told Arab News. “I am not sure when exactly women’s football was established in the Kingdom, but definitely before the 1980s. Not knowing about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Women’s football clubs began emerging around 2012 and 2013, gaining momentum over time as well as the support of senior members in leadership and society.
“We started inviting teams to our league and tournaments. Before that, we used to only invite footballers from Bahrain because it’s closer to the Eastern Province. In 2012-2013, we decided to invite people from all over the country and we had two teams coming from Riyadh and staying in the province for three days.
“It was the first time seeing that football was becoming something you would travel for, because a normal team would usually have at least 12 players (including the coach), and we had eight teams. It was a huge event. All those women asked their families to go and be part of this tournament. I would say that was the emergence of women’s football for us.”
A growing number of female players have honed their skills, allowing them to not just get better at the game but being able to share their knowledge and more.
2020 was going to be the year for female football players to shine but the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit the Kingdom and, as a precautionary measure, everything was put on hold. But the lockdown did not bring the sport to a standstill.
“The Kingdom has transformed massively in every way when it comes to female sports in general,” Al-Butairi said. “In football, during the lockdown, they realized that it was an opportunity to take advantage of since everyone was at home. They were eager to know more about football and they introduced many courses.”
One of the most highly anticipated virtual courses set to go live this week will be with former German player and Germany’s women’s national team assistant coach, Britta Carlson, who will be giving a lecture on the German methodology of physical fitness and technical preparation for women’s football.
“I’m very excited about Britta Carlson’s course. The US women’s football team is the best — they won the World Cup for years in a row — and Germany, Holland and France come pretty close. It is good to learn from the top teams and apply the knowledge to become like them or even better. Why not?”

FASTFACTS

• Established in 2006, the Eastern Province’s Eastern Flames was the first Saudi women’s football team and introduced a youth program in 2018.

• 2020 was going to be the year for female football players to shine but the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit the Kingdom and, as a precautionary measure, everything was put on hold.

Another course that was given during the lockdown was by UAE Women’s national team head coach Houriya Taheri.
“She taught us the introduction of coaching. It was a five-day intensive course during Ramadan. We learned all the basics and strategies, and for me, that was amazing because we need to grow the seeds. These are the people that will help women’s football evolve.”
Jeddah Eagle center forward Johara Al-Sudairi viewed the online courses given during lockdown as a “great step forward” as they helped to develop women’s football in the Kingdom.
“There is now more awareness and competition on a higher level,” she told Arab News. “The Jeddah Women’s League has changed things here in Jeddah, and the Women’s Football League will soon change things in the country. Overall things are moving forward in the right direction and the future for female football is bright. I think football was a secret passion for a lot of girls growing up in the past, and those girls paved the way for the next generation to be able to practice the sport we all love. We owe it all to them.”
Jeddah Eagles have resumed physical practice since the lifting of the lockdown and applied all the necessary health precautions, such as checking people’s temperature before they enter the training facility.
Saudi sports journalist Riyan Al-Jidani said the Saudi Football Federation was trying to set a strong foundation for women’s football, just like other Arab countries had done.
“Many people thought that because of the pandemic, everything would stop,” he said. “It was evident that this is wrong because the federation is working hard to develop women’s football despite the difficult circumstances such as COVID-19. These coaching courses are fundamental to develop coaches in the Kingdom. Britta Carlson to teach coaching skills is a wonderful step to establish a strong Saudi women’s teams in the future.
“We want to have uniquely skilled Saudi coaches that even make it abroad. Just like how we use the help of coaches from abroad, we hope to hear that European or American teams, for example, use the help of Saudi coaches in the future. This is
not impossible.”


Diriyah Authority marks Saudi National Day with colorful events

Updated 1 min 31 sec ago

Diriyah Authority marks Saudi National Day with colorful events

  • Diriyah Gate will represent a huge leap in KSA’s position on the regional, international cultural map, says CEO

RIYADH: The Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) marked the 90th Saudi National Day on Wednesday by organizing a wide range of interactive cultural, artistic, awareness-raising, and historical activities that were enjoyed by Diriyah’s residents.

DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo and his staff conveyed their congratulations to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as to the royal family and the Saudi people.

“The celebration of Saudi National Day this year coincides with the Saudi presidency of the G20 summit, which includes the most important and powerful economic countries in the world,” said Inzerillo. He said it affirmed the Kingdom’s leading global role with its economic potential, natural resources, human capabilities, and ancient historical and cultural legacies.

He said that Saudi Arabia’s legacy is steeped in a special heritage and is as important as its economic position in granting the Kingdom a leading position on the world’s cultural stage.

Inzerillo said DGDA is confident that the development of the historic Diriyah Gate will represent a huge leap in the Kingdom’s position on the regional and international cultural map.

“Such projects are carried out through accumulated experiences, distinctive young talents, aspirations, and ambitions embracing the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he added.

To mark the occasion, Salwa Palace, which is in the historic Turaif district and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, was decorated with the Kingdom’s flag and the National Day slogan.

A movie produced by DGDA for National Day and filmed in Turaif district in Diriyah was widely circulated on social media.

The movie was about Diriyah’s history and how its features shaped the will, determination, and awareness of Saudis. According to DGDA, Saudi people learned generosity from palm trees, endurance from the desert, physiognomy from hawks, strength from wolves, persistence from the steadfastness of the mudbrick, determination from the sword, and patience from camels.

These features have become an integral part of the Saudi personality and originated from Diriyah, dubbed “Jewel of the Kingdom,” the capital of the first Saudi state and the home of the ruling family.

The movie, which included much historical information, impressive artistic performances, and an expressive soundtrack, also drew on the local natural environment.

Among other activities organized by the authority was an entertainment and cultural event titled “The seven districts of Diriyah.” Seven teams of knights in the Saudi Najdi uniform and wearing the Diriyah logo visited the seven neighborhoods, talking to residents and providing them with information on the National Day, Diriyah, and the Kingdom’s history.

Each team distributed gifts to the people of the neighborhoods on the occasion.

To abide by the precautionary measures to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic the DGDA organized a carriage to roam the streets of Diriyah to provide various activities for its residents. The carriage visited different sites and stopped at three main places to receive the public.

The “Arab Art” event portrayed several prominent Saudi figures in all fields and included musical performances.

The event entitled “The Arab horsemen” included dance performances and bicycle shows.

Earlier, DGDA launched a number of economic, heritage, and cultural schemes aimed at highlighting the city’s historical potential, with its major heritage sites, Najdi architectural designs, and the natural environment.

“This helps the region carry out these major projects to allure more than 25 million tourists and visitors inside and outside the Kingdom to enjoy an exceptional lifestyle as Diriyah represents the cultural heart of the Kingdom, a tourist destination with a new and developed lifestyle and one of the greatest gathering places in the world,” said DGDA in a statement.