RIYADH: Saudi sportswomen have come a long way in the past few years. Victories large and small have been hard-won in the past decade, and the Kingdom’s female population is showing no signs of slowing down.
Saudi women across the country are exploring new ways of being active, with some even choosing to take on their brothers at football, not knowing the opportunities that could arise from it.
One of the most notable names in Saudi sports is none other than the Kingdom’s current ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar. Before her diplomatic engagement, Princess Reema served as the General Sports Authority’s (GSA) deputy of planning and development, where she led diversity and inclusion, the development of the Kingdom’s sports economy, and strategic partnerships.
Last December, the Kingdom held its very first Women’s Football League, with 24 teams from all over the Saudi Arabia competing for the honor of being the first side to take home the spoils of victory.
And last Monday, Saudi women in sport gained yet another victory as one of their own landed the sponsorship deal of a lifetime. Adidas announced that the company had signed Jeddah Eagles’ midfielder Farah Jefry as a brand ambassador, making her the first Saudi sportswoman to represent it in the Middle East.
Jefry, 18, who started playing football a decade ago, told Arab News she had always dreamt of playing professionally, and that being singled out by Adidas to represent the German sports brand was a great honor.
“Adidas is such a well-known company, and I’m happy to be part of the family. Hopefully, this will pave the way for other Saudi female footballers in the future,” she said of the appointment.
Don’t be discouraged by people or opinions — there might be some obstacles, but at the end it is all worth it.
Farah Jefry, Jeddah Eagles’ midfielder
For Jefry, reaching this point in her career was not always easy, even if she had known she wanted to play since she was a child.
“I have been training with the Jeddah Eagles Ladies’ Football Club for almost 3 years,” she said. “At first it was tough because I was one of the youngest members on the team and playing with people who were a lot more experienced compared to me.”
However, Jefry took the experience as an opportunity to learn from the team’s older members, in addition to practicing at home to improve her basic skills.
“It has become a lifestyle now, and walking around with a football all day is normal for me nowadays,” she said.
According to Jefry, the hardest part of being a professional footballer is maintaining consistency, another reason she believes it important to practice as much as possible.
Jefry also counts herself lucky to have a great support system in the form of her family and friends, and says that those closest to her have always known how badly she wanted to play football at a professional level, doing whatever they could to help her make that dream a reality.
However, she says that she has had to deal with her fair share of critics, particularly those who think that there is no room for women in the sport.
“Many people keep telling me that this sport isn’t for women. However, the way I view it is that this sport isn’t for a specific gender; just like any other sport, at the end of the day I’m doing what I love and I shouldn’t be judged based on the fact that I am a woman,” she told Arab News.
She also has advice for other Saudi girls who want to be part of what she calls a “beautiful” journey.
“Don’t be discouraged by people or opinions — there might be some obstacles, but at the end it is all worth it. If you’re passionate enough just chase your dream. Everything else will align with that sooner or later,” she said.