In a historic decision, Saudi Arabia is set to launch a female football league. This move comes 2 years after women were first allowed to enter stadiums.
WHO IS CREATING THIS LEAGUE IN SAUDI ARABIA?
This league is another one is a series of social reforms in the Kingdom. The creation of the league can be attributed to Crown Pince Mohammad bin Salman.
This league will mainly play in 3 cities. These include the capital city Riyadh, along with Jeddah, and Dammam. However, more names might be added if there is an increase in the number of registrations.
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The government of Saudi Arabia runs an organization called the Saudi Sports for All Federation. In a statement about the women’s football league, they said:
“The launch of the [league] bolsters women’s participation in sports at the community level and will generate increased recognition for women’s sports achievements.”
According to SFA, there will be 2 levels to the league. First, participating teams would compete in the preliminary rounds. The team that wins the prelims will be termed the regional champions. The second level would be a knockout stage, a fight for the WFL Champions Cup.
The prize money is set at 500,000 Saudi riyals ($133,251).
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud said The commencement of the Saudi Women’s Football League is one more major leap forward for the future of our country, our health, our youth, and our ambitions to see every athlete be recognized and nurtured to their fullest capability.” Al Saud is the President of the SFA.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF SAUDI WOMEN IN SPORTS?
The history of Saudi Arabia sending women to sports events is fairly short. Until recently, they were mostly barred from participating in sports in public.
After pressure from international organizations, Saudi Arabia sent two women to the 2012 Olympics. This was the first time that the Kingdom officially sent women to participate in sports. Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, a judo competitor, and 800 meters runner Sarah Attar represented Saudi Arabia at the London Olympics.
In 2019, they sent a team to a women’s futsal tournament in Kuwait. This was the first one in the region. It was organised as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Women’s Games. The tournament ended with the Saudi team placing third.
A major reason why Saudi Arabia did not allow women to compete in international sports was FIFA’s ban on hijabs placed in 2007. However, that ban was lifted in 2012.