Saudi women footballers set their sights on green goals

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The Greens’ squad are using the plastic bottles they collected at the football stadium to create an art work that will highlight the harm plastic does to the planet. (Supplied photo)
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The Greens’ squad are using the plastic bottles they collected at the football stadium to create an art work that will highlight the harm plastic does to the planet. (Supplied photo)
Updated 28 May 2019

Saudi women footballers set their sights on green goals

  • Eight female players have formed the Greens team to promote environmental causes across the Kingdom
  • The group is led by Rawh Alarfaj, who played football for 12 years

DUBAI: In the natural scheme of things, sports and environment are not easy to combine. But a group of eight Saudi women are attempting just that through their football team, the Greens.

The team’s members want to use their passion for sport to raise environmental awareness and bring about a mindset change across the Kingdom.

The Greens were established by the Saudi Sports for All Federation two months ago — specifically to promote environmental causes. The federation focuses on sports as a social, rather than professional, activity for women, men, adults, children, the elderly and people with special needs.

Leading the Greens is Rawh Alarfaj, 34, who played football for 12 years before deciding to become a coach.

“I am very passionate about sports overall, but my speciality is football and I feel I am good at it,” Alarfaj, who lives in Riyadh, told Arab News. “One of the things that keeps me going is that I am one of the founders of the Challenge Sports Club, which I manage right now.

FASTFACT

 

• The Global Goals World Cup is an alternative sports tournament that creates a community and inspires and engages women from all over the world.

• A one-day football celebration was created for 30 teams in Copenhagen.

• All teams qualify by choosing and creating an action plan on how to work with one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“We were focused at first only on football. But from the beginning of 2017, we have also had a basketball team for women in Riyadh.”

“We run programs for everyone in society because our goal is to increase the level of public participation in sports in Saudi Arabia from 13 percent in 2015 to 40 percent by 2030, based on a study we did at the federation,” said Alarfaj.

“Today, we’re at 18 percent. The programs focus on all kinds of sports. Just days ago, in the Danish capital Copenhagen, we took part in the Global Goals World Cup, which promotes causes such as environmental ones.”

The tournament, better known as GGWC, frames the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a sport, with 30 teams worldwide competing to create the kind of world they would like to see. Each team creates an action plan with a particular global goal and strives to achieve it in their own country.

For the Greens, the focus was SDG 15: “Life on Land.” “We thought it would be a good global goal to choose right now because the issue has many sides,” Alarfaj said. “Awareness of the state of the environment is a very important topic now. So we organized a number of campaigns across the Kingdom.”

During a male professional football league game in Riyadh, Greens players distributed reusable bags as they educated the crowds about the benefits of using them instead of plastic bags.

After the event, the team — with the help of a number of young Saudis — cleaned up the stadium. They collected plastic bottles for use in building a “plastic art work” — due for completion in June — which highlights the harm they do to the planet.




The Greens promoted their cause at a football match. (Supplied photo)

The environmental protection campaign was not confined to Riyadh alone. A clean-up drive was undertaken by the Greens at a public park in Alkhobar, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, while awareness talks were held in Jeddah about how plastic harms marine life.

“These campaigns are really important,” Alarfaj said. “A lot of young people volunteered to help us and it’s something that needs to be a part of the culture.”

Such campaigns gain the team points toward their final tournament score. “Global Goals isn’t just about football,” she said. “It’s about the SDGs and how to achieve them through sports, specifically female football. It’s very good to take part in sports for a cause and to have this culture in Saudi Arabia.”

Having taken part in the GGWC this year, the Greens hope to host the tournament in the Kingdom in a couple of years. “To win, you can’t just go out and play,” Alarfaj said. “You have to organize these campaigns and engage society in the goal you choose.

“Sports is the most peaceful activity which people can use to espouse a cause,” she said. “So I recommend that people get more engaged with sport and use it as a tool to spread awareness about different causes.”

Lujain Kashgari, 28, discovered she loved football when she was only 8 years old. She used to play the sport with her relatives as children. 

As she grew older, so did her passion for the beautiful game. “It’s my favorite hobby and biggest passion today,” said Kashgari, who was originally from Jeddah but lives in Alkhobar at present.

“My mission was to come up with an initiative that engaged the people of Eastern Province and also made a big impact on Life on Land through plastic recycling.”

A lot of young people volunteered to help – it’s something that needs to be a part of the culture.

Greens coach Rawh Alarfaj

To this end, Kashgari asked residents and communities to donate 10,000 plastic bottles to a recycling center. She also targeted children by organizing a fun learning day in the Altamimi public park, while teaching others in schools about the importance of recycling through playing a game.

“What I really liked about the GGWC is that it combines sports with humanities and a good cause,” Kashgari told Arab News. “I have learnt a lot about sustainability and simplicity, while enjoying every moment of the football tournament and scoring three goals. It was an amazing opportunity and an unforgettable experience.”

She said many Saudis lack awareness of ways to implement the specific goal of Life on Land.

“When I read about the Life on Land global goal, especially the concept of the three Rs (recycle, reuse and reduce), and looked around, even at myself, I realized that we might have known about it, but we needed a reminder,” Kashgari said.




their clean-up campaigns have attracted the interest of young Saudi volunteers. (Supplied photo)

“Even when we reached out to recycling centers, we found that they don’t really take plastic bottles unless it’s a massive amount. They don’t support communities or individuals, so I realized it’s very important that we do something about it and give it more attention.”

As a football club, the Greens were able to collect plastic bottles over a period of two weeks to recycle them. It also collaborated with five schools and two sports clubs in Alkhobar to collect 100 tons of plastic bottles, utensils and plates — the minimum required for recycling at the center.

According to Alyah Aboalola, a Greens player from Jeddah, more needs to be done for environmental protection in the Kingdom.

“I was focused more on raising awareness about the sea because local residents in Jeddah are into scuba diving as part of their interest in life under water,” Aboalola, 24, said. “There’s a lot of plastic being thrown into the sea, which affects the quality of marine life and coral life.”

Currently involved full time with a sports academy, Aboalola said she was thrilled as a Greens player to have reached the semifinals in Copenhagen.

“I’d like to do this professionally later on,” she said. “When you take part in sports, you build a community and, through it, we can do more for society. I’d like to always keep sports and environmental
causes connected.”


Shoppers seek solace online amid coronavirus lockdown

Updated 32 min 28 sec ago

Shoppers seek solace online amid coronavirus lockdown

  • Using internet for shopping is fast becoming an essential part of human life in the times of crisis

RIYADH: Under normal circumstances most people do not give much thought to online shopping. However, with the closure of malls and shops because of coronavirus curbs, online shopping has become essential. But are people going overboard?

Many people are buying unnecessary items, such as clothes, bags and shoes, online despite knowing that they will have no use for these items during the pandemic. It seems that through online shopping they are seeking some kind of mental satisfaction or emotional release during house quarantine or self-isolation.

According to Rana Taha, a coach in school planning and management, shoppers who admit to buying unnecessary items online “are trying to break their routine of being quarantined.”

Deema Al-Tammami, an event planner, said: “Online shopping has increased by 100 percent during quarantine. For me, nothing sounds as much fun as online shopping these days.

“Most of our purchases are home appliances because we love to change things around, renovate, and reorder and organize our homes, which helps to relax and release stress,” she said.

“Online prices are significantly lower than normal shopping in stores,” she said.

FASTFACT

100,000

Amazon has hired extra staff to keep up with worldwide demand and plans to take on an additional 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers through April, according to media reports.

Al-Tammami said that online shopping offers the pleasure of choosing an item with care, reading the reviews and tracking the shipment.

“There is a kind of enthusiasm in it that is totally different from normal shopping.”

Amazon has even hired extra staff to keep up with worldwide demand and plans to take on an additional 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers through April, according to media reports.

However, some who were accustomed to shopping online before the pandemic are avoiding the problem of “going overboard” with excessive
purchases.

Alanood Al-Alsheikh, a government employee, said that she did 90 percent of her shopping online.

“I usually buy everything — clothes, creams, bags and house supplies — but I always buy from websites that I trust. Pharmaceutical products are much cheaper from international online websites than local ones. And, lately, I have been doing some grocery shopping online, too.

“I don’t know how much I spend online shopping these days, but it’s less than before the quarantine. Now I’m not buying clothes and bags, only creams and beauty products,” Al-Alsheikh said.

Al-Tammami said that she sees little difference in the amount of money being spent online compared with shopping from stores.

“The money we used to spend on restaurants and outdoor activities we are now spending on grocery shopping and games to play at home,” she said.

Maha Al-Nufaiei, a senior analyst, used to shop online before the pandemic, but said that she has stopped because “sanitization of packages is not guaranteed and countries are stealing from each other’s medical supplies.”

“I only shop from local websites,” she said.

Munirah Al-Ajlan, a standardization analyst, said that online shopping has advantages, such as saving time by using filters. “But it certainly has some flaws — usually the shipping might take longer.”

Defective or poorly fitting items also can be hard to return. “I usually don’t send them back and they become useless,” Al-Ajlan said.

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