DUBAI: Sham Al-Ghamdi looks set to become the Kingdom’s first international female referee after the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) took an official decision that will enable her to obtain a FIFA license.
Speaking to Alwatan newspaper, Al-Ghamdi, a former player herself, revealed that gaining certification from the SAFF was a major step towards accreditation by world football’s governing body.
“I am happy to have been approved by the Saudi Football Federation, and this is the first step before obtaining a FIFA license,” she said. “It had to be approved by the federation in order to be able to apply for a FIFA license.”
The 24-year-old Al-Ghamdi has long had a dream to officiate at the game sights level.
“I spend hours reading and listening to advice from refereeing experts,” she told Arab News in 2019. “To referee a World Cup match would be a dream come true.”
Al-Ghamdi was the first Saudi football referee to oversee matches in the Women’s Football League (WFL), which launched in the Kingdom in November 2020, and she also took charge of a number of friendly matches that preceded this competition.
“My experience in league officiating is very distinctive, because it was part of a program of coexistence with international referees from whom I gained so much experience,” she told Alwatan.
“I lived with them day-to-day, where I learned different methods, more than attending any session.”
Al-Ghamdi says she fell in love with football from a very young age, but after representing Jeddah Eagles she suffered an injury to the knee which prevented her from playing again.
But she was determined not to leave football and instead turned to refereeing.
She took courses in officiating under the supervision of former international referee Marai Al-Awaji, and then received practical lessons at the hands of Dr. Ayman Al-Rifai.
“As a soccer referee, I made sure to be familiar with all the laws, provisions and updates that should be available in the game on the field,” she said.
She also attributed her success in refereeing to her passion for the game.
The young Saudi referee strongly believes in the future of sports in the Kingdom, and hopes to play a vital role in helping achieve success in her field.
“Sport is part of the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and it is our duty to raise the flag of the homeland and compete for future titles and successes,” she said.
“And I hope we continue to get support from the bodies specialized in this field of sports related to women.”
As a referee, Al-Ghamdi is also no stranger to criticism, something which she accepts as part of the game.
“Criticism is part of any field, and refereeing is one of the areas that face the sharpest criticism,” she said.
“But I must accept the strong opinions and listen to directions to avoid and help change them in the coming times.”
Al-Ghamdi believes that in time, and with the right support system, more women will take up refereeing duties in the Kingdom.
“I ask the Saudi government to set up a special referees committee for women under the umbrella of the Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation,” she concluded.