It’s a historic first in the Kingdom. For the very first time, Saudi Arabia will see the country’s best women’s football teams compete in a football championship.
A tournament that symbolizes the progress being made in the Kingdom
This historic competition started on Tuesday morning. It is composed of 24 teams from Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam and more than 600 players. All these teams compete in a championship to win the title and a cash prize of $133,000.
— Women's Football League (@WFLeagueKSA) November 16, 2020
The first matches saw the Al-Riyadh teams, the Jeddah Tigers, and the team located in Dammam “Al Mamlakah” triumph over their opponents on river scores. They are therefore the three leading teams in the championship.
Beyond these first matches, for which the symbolism is powerful in Saudi Arabia, the initiative that is this women’s football competition has been hailed around the world and is presented as a major step for the world of Saudi sport. Numerous personalities have publicly supported the event.
Calling the competition a “positive step”, Abdullah Alyami, a Saudi football coach and sports journalist, said he expected many more women to participate in future tournaments. Saudi sports journalist Riyan Al-Jidani also tweeted his support for such an experience.
Enthusiasm around the competition
Originally, the tournament was supposed to start in March – but the coronavirus pandemic has upset the organizers’ plans. For some teams, the interruption was an opportunity to improve their game and tactics.
“We started preparations very early, and the delay due to the pandemic worked in our favor. We were able to take more than two months to prepare for the tournament,” said Maram Al-Butairi, general manager and head coach of Eastern Flames FC, a women’s football club based in Dammam. The players also agree. For Amal Gimie, an Eritrean midfielder with Kings United of Jeddah, it is a dream come true.
— صدى الاتفاق (@SadaEttifaq) November 17, 2020
Although the matches are not yet broadcast live, the numerous tweets and reactions testify to the enthusiasm of football fans who are sauntering around the competition.
Can the opening of a women’s football championship be a starting point for professional women’s sport in Saudi Arabia? Other sports such as basketball, tennis, maybe even competitive swimming could follow in the coming years.