- Department of Women’s Football Development established in Saudi Arabia in 2019
- Focus is on a range of development programmes
- The kingdom’s first women’s league began in November 2020
Women’s football is constantly evolving, and more and more girls and women, from all corners of the globe, are discovering the joys of playing football. Saudi Arabia is no exception, with the creation of a Department of Women’s Football Development in October 2019 heralding a new era for the women’s game there.
Its aim is to promote and support the culture of women’s football, while raising awareness of the importance of sport. The country’s inaugural women’s championship, the Women’s Community Football League, was launched in November 2020 after a coronavirus-related postponement. Twenty-four teams from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam (featuring players aged 17 and above) battled it out for the maiden title, ultimately claimed by Challenge Riyadh.
During his recent visit to the kingdom, FIFA President Gianni Infantino stressed the importance of developing women’s football in Saudi Arabia in line with FIFA’s global strategy for women’s football.
The main objective of Saudi Arabia’s development strategy for women’s football is to take the women’s game to a whole a new level in the kingdom. Particular emphasis will be placed on the development of coaches, referees and players. In addition, the creation of new women’s teams will be encouraged, tournaments will be organised and improved, national teams will be created, and football pitches will be adapted to the needs of women in the country.
Ultimately, this should help increase the number of women and girls who wish to play football. To continue making progress, it is important to know and understand both the history of women’s football and the current situation in Saudi Arabia.
Keys to encouraging development:
- The provision of qualified male and female coaches is an integral part of the developmental and promotional strategy. Female Saudi coaches are to be used to enhance the level of performance of the players.
- Bolstering the training given to local female referees to provide them with the specialist knowledge required to referee official and unofficial competitions with a high degree of competence. A team of Saudi female referees is to be established with the goal of officiating at international tournaments in the long term. To that end, 12 of Asia’s top female referees (among others) were flown to Saudi Arabia to take charge of women’s league matches and train 16 Saudi junior women referees.
- Creating a mechanism to promote women players of all ages. This is to ensure that there are enough talented players to represent the national teams and clubs.
Support from FIFA
FIFA is supporting the Department of Women’s Football Development in the implementation of its goals and is providing assistance in the revision and fine-tuning of the development strategy. Through virtual meetings, various issues and challenges are being discussed to find solutions together in line with FIFA’s strategy for women’s football. The FIFA Women’s Development Programme offers all 211 member associations the opportunity to apply for and benefit from additional funds and expertise to promote women’s football at national level.
Achievements to date:
- Participation of Saudi Arabia’s first women’s futsal team in in the Gulf Cooperation Council Women’s Games
- Organisation of training camps to prepare the first female futsal team
- Online training for female referees (football and futsal)
- Online training for coaches
- Online educational workshops in cooperation with the Spanish Football Federation
- Participation of the first Saudi female player in an e-Goal project in cooperation with the AFC
- Qualification course for new female referees with 63 additional referees approved
- Registration of the first women’s futsal national-team players under the umbrella of the federation
- Registration of five female Saudi coaches with a C licence qualification under the umbrella of the federation
- A cooperation programme for Saudi referees with foreign counterparts during the Women’s Community Football League
- A cooperation programme for Saudi female coaches with foreign counterparts during the Women’s Community Football League
- The first C license course for female coaches in Riyadh with the German coach Monika Staab (20 female candidates were trained to C license level, bringing the total now to 25)
This article is part of our series focused on women’s football, and women in football, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021. To find out more about FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy and Development Programmes, and to read more articles like this, click here.