Host nation carries flag for the region at AFC Asian Cup in Amman
roles and challenging negative perceptions regarding women. And football is the healthiest and most inspiring way to do this.”
Clearly, it is too early to compare women’s football in the Arab world to the men’s game in the Middle East or to other women’s teams around the world. For now, it is enough to see the improvement in the region itself over the past decade or so. Across the rest of the Arab world, women’s football is starting to be taken seriously.
Apart from pioneers such as Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, Bahrain was the first to set up a women’s team in the Gulf, in 2003.
In the past five years, the UAE Football Association has arguably done more than any other national body to promote the game among females, from grassroots initiatives to setting up a league that included local Emirati clubs as well as expatriate sides.
Although the UAE failed to qualify for next week’s competition in Jordan, modest but steady progress is being achieved.
“We have played in a lot of competitions, especially in the AFC Asian Cup qualification in Tajikistan,” UAE women’s coach Houriya Al-Taheri said.
“That was a very big jump in terms of improvement in the performances of the players. It helped their understanding of the game; now they know a different level of football, not just the development level. They saw how Jordan, who were in our group, are one of the best Arab and West Asia teams.”
As mentioned by Al-Taheri, Jordan took part in the qualifications despite being guaranteed a place at the tournament as hosts, the idea being to gain as much experience as possible.
It is hoped that such attitude and dedication will translate to performances on the pitch, starting this week.
But whatever the results, and before a ball has been kicked, Jordan has already struck an important blow for women’s football across the Arab world.