JEDDAH, MAKKAH: From being a fan to co-chairing an all-male Saudi club, a love of football runs deep in Awatef Al-Sahoo, the first Saudi female to run for the presidency of a club.
The unexpected move is a first for the sports scene in the Kingdom. Al-Sahoo presented her candidacy for the presidency of Al-Qalaa FC in Al-Jouf, becoming the first Saudi woman to take the step.
She presented her candidacy papers for the presidency of the club’s board of directors last Thursday, amid competition with a list of names. Al-Sahoo wants to present a file, which focuses on establishing a women’s sports council to serve sports in Saudi Arabia, and she hopes to be accepted by the sporting community.
She told Arab News that her nomination was inspired by her belief that the role of women is important in society, especially for female athletes, as they create balance and integration, and can be examples of women reaching their full potential.
With her husband and family’s support for the nomination, her story began with her marriage to athlete Ahmed Al-Sahoo, who was a gateway to the world of sports for her. She said she was enthusiastic about becoming president of Al-Qalaa FC because of sports competitions.
“My home turned into a management center for the club and its affairs, with Al-Qalaa FC becoming a second home that is valued and supported with all their effort,” she said.
Al-Sahoo is unafraid of losing the elections in two weeks’ time, which shows her determination to fight, “by exercising my right to vote, establish a community sports channel capable of developing society in a cultural, social and civilized way, in accordance with the highest standards and modern technology that indicate success and excellence, is what I’m aiming for,” she said.
Last year, Kholoud Attar became one of the first women to join a football club. She is now head of Makkah’s Al-Wehda FC media center. She told Arab News that the Kingdom is ready to see what women have to offer in the field of sports.
“I always admire women who bypass gender issues and only focus on contributing their time to something new. I think it’s very brave and I’m sure she will do it and she’ll do a great job,” Attar said.
“I fully support her decision. If anything, working in the sports field and managing Al-Wehda FC, I realized that the Kingdom is ready for all the great work and opportunities women can give for this field.”
Al-Sahoo’s bold decision is by all means a great start for an integrated system, but also one that has gained the respect of women in the region.
Many people on social media have hailed her nomination as “brave and influential.”
Al-Sahoo said: “My success in the next elections is the success of all ambitious Saudi women who would like to show the world who they are, what they can give and who have fought in order to achieve these historical moments that will be positively registered in the march of Saudi women who have entered all domains courageously.”
Ahmed Al-Sahoo, her husband, whose presidency of Al-Qalaa FC recently ended, said her nomination is a wish she has been eagerly awaiting.
She is a leading figure who carries Al-Jouf citizens’ hopes and ambitions, and her loss in the elections will be a loss for all ambitious women from her generation, he added.
He said it was important to support and encourage women in their ambitions in the sports field and ensure their success.