(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Published: Sat 24 Sep 2022, 5:50 PM
Last updated: Sat 24 Sep 2022, 7:44 PM
In another first for women's sport in Saudi Arabia, the country's women's national team, also known as the 'Green Falcons,' will make their home debut with two fixtures against Bhutan.
The matches are just the third and fourth ever to be played by the women's national team following their launch in October 2021.
The Green Falcons opening matches saw them play the Seychelles and Maldives at the National Stadium in Maldives' capital Malé in February 2022, with both contests finishing as 2-0 victories.
The fixtures will take place at the Prince Sultan Stadium in Abha and are the latest chapter in the women's transformative sport journey in Saudi Arabia.
Coach Monika Staab speaks to the players. — Supplied photo
As part of Vision 2030, the country is aiming to inspire participation and interest at all levels of women's sport. Thanks to unprecedented investment, female participation in sports in the Kingdom is up 150% over the last four years, and 195,000 girls aged between 5-15 are currently playing sports on a weekly basis.
As the number one sport in the country, women's football is one of the seven key strategic priorities for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. The Federation has ambitious plans to grow interest and participation at all levels of the women's game, with unprecedented investments in areas such as grassroots, player development, coaching, facilities, competitions and governance. The ultimate plan is to provide new opportunities by launching multiple new regional training centres welcoming over 1,000 girls in every corner of the Kingdom. Today, there are almost 450 registered female players, 49 qualified referees and over 800 D, C and B licensed coaches in the Kingdom.
The country appointed its first ever women's coach last year, the highly respected Monika Staab and, following the successful launch of the first regional women's football league last year which welcomed 16 teams, next month will see the introduction of a new 8-team Premier League launch. The competition has now rebranded to the First Division Women's League and will see 17 teams compete across three cities, taking the total number to a record 25 clubs across the two divisions.
Earlier this summer, the country also successfully staged the West Asian Football Federation 3rd Women's Futsal Championship in Jeddah, with the hosts finishing with a silver medal. In another landmark moment, the federation announced an intention to host the 2026 Women's AFC Asian Cup, with growing the grassroots of the women's game in Saudi Arabia and across the continent central to the bid.
Commenting on the national team's opening home fixtures, SAFF's President Yasser Al Misehal said:“Win, lose or draw, these home matches are a historic moment in the transformative journey that women's football is on in Saudi Arabia. Following an unbeaten opening two games against the Seychelles and Maldives, this is a landmark moment for the women's game and is a first opportunity to play on home turf and in front of friends and family. As well as developing and improving on-pitch, the team's impact is being felt by the number of women and girls throughout the country, who are being inspired to play and follow football.”
German head coach Monika Staab added:“After the historic opening matches for our country's women's team, these fixtures give our players the chance to play on their home soil for the first time ever. As a team, we continue to improve and get better while as a sport, we're making huge progress at all levels and are proudly making history together. We look forward to these testing fixtures against Bhutan and I am sure the whole squad will cherish this special moment forever.”
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