JEDDAH: After playing and winning their first ever international match, the Saudi Arabian women’s national football team has garnered worldwide praise and, in particular, from one of the game’s biggest names.
“Today is a historic day, not only for you, but for everyone who loves football,” tweeted legendary Brazilian footballer Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, in support of the players.
The female Falcons, overseen by 62-year-old German coach Monika Staab, defeated the Seychelles 2-0 in a friendly match that was held in the Maldives on Sunday.
Pele said: “I want to congratulate the @SaudiFF (Saudi Arabian Football Federation) and their women's National Football Team for their first ever official FIFA match.”
With 2.7 million Twitter followers, the 82-year-old decorated sportsman also made a similar congratulatory post in Portuguese. His Twitter account is linked to his official Facebook page, where he has more than 9.5 million followers.
His tweet also included mentions of the Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal and SAFF president Yasser Al-Misehal.
The minister thanked the “legend” for his gesture, saying it was “a truly historical moment, and a step in the right direction for a brilliant future for our female footballers.”
“I am sure that they are inspired by your support, and it will be our honor to have you cheering for them in future games,” he tweeted.
Al-Misehal also replied to Pele’s tweet, thanking the three-time World Cup winner for his support.
“On behalf of the Saudi Football Federation, I would like to thank you for encouraging and supporting our inspirational women's national team, whose members worked tirelessly to make this day a reality. You’re an icon, a legend and a humanitarian of our beautiful game. We wish you the best of health and prosperity.”
Their win came after Staab’s team completed an intensive training camp in the Kingdom, landing in the Maldives on Thursday.
They now turn their attention to their second match, which is against their Maldivian hosts on Feb. 24.
The Women’s Football Department, which is part of SAFF, said it hoped these two fixtures were the start of a journey that would see the team eventually gain FIFA certification.