Host na­tion car­ries flag for the re­gion at AFC Asian Cup in Am­man

Arab News - - SPORTS -

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.

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