Saudi female footballers show will to succeed

1 / 2
USA’s players celebrate their victory in the final. (AFP)
2 / 2
USA women's soccer player Megan Rapinoe holds the trophy in front of the City Hall in New York on July 10, 2019 after a ticker tape parade for the women's World Cup champions. (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2019
Follow

Saudi female footballers show will to succeed

  • US team's victory in FIFA WWC final strikes a chord among women footballers in Kingdom
  • Female Arab footballers think they could play better than their male counterparts given the right opportunities

JEDDAH: Football fans around the world celebrated the recognition of women in sports after the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) final match, in which the US beat the Netherlands 2-0. One country where the US victory struck a powerful chord among female sports enthusiasts is Saudi Arabia.

Women are participating in sports in increasing numbers in the Kingdom as the reforms being introduced under the Vision 2030 plan enable women to take on different career paths.

Members of Jeddah Eagles, a women’s football squad with 39 players, watched the July 7 WWC final in anticipation of an exciting finish. In the end, they celebrated not only the US team’s victory but the recognition of women in sports as a whole.

Johara Al-Sudairi, who has been playing for Jeddah Eagles as a winger since August 2017, said she is thrilled that football is gaining popularity among women in the Kingdom.

“I’ve been a fan of women’s football ever since I was a kid. Watching Mia Hamm play, then watching Marta Vieira da Silva play for Brazil when I was a teenager got me hooked,” the 26-year-old Saudi told Arab News. “I have never missed a women’s World Cup since. I’m so happy that now the sport is getting more and more recognized. This is a huge step forward.”


FAST FACTS

18 - The Storm, a Saudi women’s football squad, has 18 players.

39 - Jeddah Eagles women’s football squad has 39 players.

Saudi women participate in sports in increasing numbers.

Reforms under Vision 2030 enable women to take different career paths, including professional sports.


Al-Sudairi said women have the drive to succeed in the sport more than their male counterparts.

“I believe that hard work pays off. And from what I’ve seen, I believe women want it more,” she said.

Hala Khashoggi, a Saudi who has also played on the wing for the team since February 2019, said the US team’s victory struck a blow for women’s empowerment worldwide.

“I feel incredible that female empowerment is increasing and it enlightens a lot of young girls and inspires them to play football,” she told Arab News.

Khashoggi believes both men and women can excel equally in the sport. “Comparing the men’s and women’s games is already old hat,” she said.

“Every individual player has their own uniqueness and quality. Every team has its own ability to score well and play incredibly. Thus, comparing is not the solution. Playing better is.”




Farah Jefry plays for the Jeddah Eagles as a midfielder. (Supplied photo)

In conclusion, Khashoggi said: “Every woman should follow her dreams, whatever it is and whatever it takes, because football is not just for men or for women. Football is for footballers.”

Fatimah Gari, who joined the team as a striker in 2014, was happy for her fellow female football players in the US for their victory.

“It is a very good feeling,” the 28-year-old Saudi told Arab News. “I wish one day we will have a Saudi team and will be in their place.”

Gari’s views are echoed by Farah Jefry, a Saudi who has been playing for Jeddah Eagles for over a year now. “As a female soccer player I am delighted to see this amount of attention given to women’s sports. I hope it continues to grow,” she said. 

The 16-year-old midfielder believes Arab women would perform better than their male counterparts with the right support.

“With the right amount of funding and support, Arab women for sure can be better at playing,” she told Arab News.

“Saudi Vision 2030 is giving us lots of opportunities. I would totally encourage women in the Kingdom to learn to play football.”

The US team’s victory in France was a memorable event for members of another Jeddah female football team, The Storm, which a squad of 18 players.

Dona Adel Rajab, the head coach of The Storm since February 2018, who was born and raised in the US, has played football most of her life. “Women’s sports has been around me and I never felt any difference until I moved to Jeddah in 2015,” the 28-year-old Saudi told Arab News.

Women’s sports have grown in recognition and awareness in Saudi Arabia since then, Rajab said.

 

“The popularity of football is increasing. However, the initiative in taking the next step is needed,” she said.

Rajab said what really matters in sports most is discipline and seriousness, not gender or ethnicity.

“Since we are talking about sports, ethnicity and gender are not good indicators to differentiate between male and female. As a football coach, I look at performance and discipline,” she said.

Rahaf Al-Hazmi, a 21-year-old Saudi who co-founded The Storm and plays in defence, is enthusiastic about the future of the sport for women in the Kingdom.

“The mentality of Saudi women has changed a lot. Women have started to participate in all kind of sports and requests to join our team are increasing,” she said.

“The love of football is increasing among women in the kingdom. Especially now that the government is focusing on sports for women.”

“Women who take part in sports in general, and play football in particular, felt blessed to have witnessed this achievement in women sports, “ Al-Hazmi told Arab News, referring to the WWC final results.

“Watching women not only play for fun but also as a career and a calling can give us a motivation to move forward. Women have an amazing capacity to reach their aim. If we really focused on developing our skills and we made this our first priority, we can be so much better.”




Jeddah’s The Storm playing a warm-up game. (Supplied photo)

Johara Hamad, 21-year-old Saudi winger for The Storm, said: “I was surprised at the amount of people who watched and showed an interest. It actually made me even more motivated to improve my skills so that one day I will be a part of such a great event.”

Hamad is against comparing genders in sports, but she too believes Saudi women can play better than their male counterparts with the right support and equal opportunities.

“I don’t like comparisons but in the context of Saudi Arabia, we can be better than the men’s teams if we get the same chances and support,” she told Arab News.

“I believe that we have it in us to scale far greater heights with the support of the General Sports Authority.”

Danyah Al-Othmany has witnessed a steady increase in the number of women interested in football in Saudi Arabia since she took up the sport.

The 24-year-old Saudi, who plays at right back for The Storm, calls the US team’s victory “a great accomplishment.”

“Women have the potential and can become great players if they set their mind to it,” Al-Othmany told Arab News.

“Honestly, it’s all about the commitment. Regardless of whether the player is male or female, what matters is if they are willing to spend time on themselves to improve and become better.”

Al-Othmany’s message to women in the Kingdom who want to take up football is simple: “Commitment is what really counts.”

Perhaps Al-Hazmi, who co-founded The Storm, spoke for many Saudi female footballers when she said: “Years ago no one in the world imagined having a World Cup tournament for women’s football, so nothing is impossible. We need every single talent we have in the Kingdom so that we can collaborate in order to reach the WWC and play alongside the best professional players of the world.”


Saudi Arabia takes part in 3rd annual international Camel Parade in Paris

Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia takes part in 3rd annual international Camel Parade in Paris

  • This year’s event celebrates decision by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to designate 2024 as International Year of Camelids
  • Saudi representatives will highlight role of the Kingdom in promoting the value of camels as a cultural symbol associated with Saudi society since ancient times

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is taking part in a special Camel Parade in France on Saturday, in celebration of the UN’s designation of 2024 as International Year of Camelids.

The event in Paris has been organized by the French Federation for the Development of Camelids in France and Europe, under the umbrella of the International Camel Organization, and is sponsored by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and the Kingdom’s Camel Club.

This is the third year in which the event has taken place.  The event was first held in January 2019 and repeated in 2022.  

The participants in the parade of camels, llamas, alpacas and other members of the camelid family of creatures are expected to include more than 50 representatives of camel-related organizations from more than 30 countries, along with camel breeders, government officials, others with an interest in the animals, and entertainers from various branches of the performing arts.

The camelids family. (Shutterstock image)

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the countries that will be represented include the US, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Canada, India, Morocco, Tanzania, Peru, Algeria, the Czech Republic, Pakistan, Tunisia, Austria, Spain, Burundi, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, France, Sudan, Chad, Angola, the UK and Uganda.

Saudi representatives will highlight the role of the Kingdom in promoting the value of camels as a cultural symbol that has been associated with Saudi society since ancient times and “still enjoys great prestige,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

On Friday, the eve of the parade, public discussions took place at the Chateau de Janvry’s historical center about cultural heritage associated with camels around the world and the specific contributions by participating countries to the annual event in Paris.

The parade will be followed by a reception for invited guests, including representatives of the participating countries, international organizations, academia, research centers and the private sector, the SPA reported.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization named 2024 as International Year of Camelids to honor and promote the sector and highlight the important role it plays in efforts to achieve food security and economic growth in many countries.

 

 


Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan’s top military officials in Islamabad

Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan’s top military officials in Islamabad

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s assistant minister of defense, Talal Al-Otaibi, on Friday held talks with top officials from the Pakistan Army during an official visit to Islamabad.

He reviewed relations between the two countries during meetings with the commander of the army, Gen. Syed Asim Munir, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza, and the chief of the general staff, Gen. Muhammad Avais Dastgir.

The Saudi-Pakistani Committee also met during Al-Otaibi’s visit. Its members discussed cooperation between the nations in the field of defense, including research and development, and the transfer and localization of technology, in line with the goals of Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan.


How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda

Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda

  • Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund wants to produce half a million electric vehicles by 2030
  • The Kingdom has installed charging outlets in public areas in Diriyah to encourage EV ownership

RIYADH: Around the world, electric vehicles are already revolutionizing leisure, public transportation and logistics, shrinking the carbon footprint of travel, improving air quality and reducing pollution in the air, on land and in the sea.

As Saudi Arabia embarks on a range of environmental initiatives designed to address the challenges posed by climate change and foster sustainable economic development, EVs have become an important focus area.

The shift from traditional combustion engine vehicles to new electric models has accelerated worldwide as companies and consumers opt for greener modes of transport. Saudi Arabia is no exception.

Saudia, the Kingdom's national flag carrier, has signed an arrangement to acquire 100 electric-powered jets from Lilium, developer of the first all-electric vertical take-off and landing (“eVTOL”) jet. (Supplied)

The transition from regular cars to electric vehicles in the Kingdom is flourishing. The EV trend has gone beyond personal vehicle ownership, with the proliferation of everything from e-scooters to electric buses.

There are even discussions around whether EV technology will soon be applied to aircraft and perhaps space travel.

Stephen Crolius, former climate adviser at the Clinton Foundation and current president of Carbon-Neutral Consulting, supports the idea of EV ownership due to its environmental benefits.

Although it might still be a challenge to educate the public in some societies about the benefits of transitioning to EVs, Crolius says the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

“For mass transition to occur on any front, there has to be a set of circumstances that cause it to happen,” he told Arab News.

“Through government encouragement, we can continue to build volume (and) cause industries to mature, like, for example, the battery industry, which has done a lot of maturing over the last 15 years … the cost of batteries and the prices of batteries have come down to an extraordinary degree.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

“We are developing renewable generation for electricity. Are we developing fast enough to head off the climate crisis? I don’t know. But compared to new generations of technology getting rolled out, we are deploying a lot of renewable electricity generation, in historical terms, really fast.”

Companies such as CEER and Lucid, which are heavily funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, are at the forefront of driving growth in Saudi Arabia’s electric vehicle industry.

US electric car manufacturer Lucid signed a contract with the PIF two years ago to build a factory in the King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea. Today, PIF shares a little over half of the ownership of the group in the Kingdom, and aims to produce almost half a million EVs by 2030.

Since last year, the use of electric vehicles in the Kingdom has expanded to include electric buses as a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Electric buses have zero emissions and therefore significantly reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases in urban areas, especially during the Hajj season, when pilgrims flock to the Kingdom and make use of its mass transit network.

An electric bus service connecting the airport to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah was launched by the region’s governor Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during the last Hajj season.

DID YOUKNOW

• The Kingdom has invested at least $10 billion in US electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors.

• With 61% of shares, Saudi Arabia is the majority owner of Lucid Group through its Public Investment Fund.

• PIF aims to produce 500,000 EVs annually by 2030.

• In Riyadh, the EV share is targeted to increase by 30% in 2030.

The route connecting the two locations enabled high operational efficiency, with a bus able to travel 250 km on just a single charge.

Electric buses offer a variety of benefits, including reduced noise, improved energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. In addition, they have a smaller carbon footprint, which is a crucial step toward sustainability.

Saudis committed to protecting the environment have also included EVs in their daily commute, with e-scooters now found in Riyadh and other cities. E-scooters provide an eco-friendly solution to local transport by cutting toxic emissions and lowering noise pollution.

Offering e-scooter services in various locations in Riyadh is a clear sign of the Kingdom’s eagerness to not only set regulations and promote electric vehicles, but also lead society in adopting a positive attitude toward sustainable living.

Gazal's e-scooter services have become a popular option for those traveling specially in crowded places in Riyadh. (Photo courtesy of Gazal)

Furthermore, with advancements in battery technology and the development of charging infrastructure, electric vehicles are becoming a viable option for companies aiming to decarbonize their operations.

For example, in public areas in Diriyah such as Albujairi and At-Turaif, standard wall outlets are available for EV owners to charge their vehicles while enjoying a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site.

As the aviation industry is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, the concept of electric aircraft may offer a promising solution to global decarbonization.

Three years ago, British automobile maker Rolls-Royce broke records when its “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft reached 628 km per hour, making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

At the time, Warren East, the company’s then-CEO, said that electric aircraft could make “jet zero” a reality and help decarbonize all forms of transport.

Compared to existing commercial aircraft, which rely on petroleum and synthetic fuel blends, electric planes produce less noise, have lower operating costs and emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases.

However, there are still several obstacles to the widespread adoption of electric aircraft — in particular the sheer expense of adapting the existing infrastructure needed to support their use.

Though governments and private companies worldwide could collaborate and build a comprehensive network of charging stations to meet growing demand, this may burden the economies of some countries.

Nevertheless, the growing importance of electric vehicles beyond cars, such as buses, electric scooters and airplanes, holds great promise for a decarbonized future.

The growing importance of electric vehicles beyond cars, such as buses, electric scooters and airplanes, holds great promise for a decarbonized future. (Shutterstock photo)

Utilizing alternative sources of energy in these areas can change the carbon emissions game for the better, fight air pollution, and pave the way for sustainable transport systems in the Kingdom and around the world.

To realize the full potential of electric vehicles, however, governments and businesses will first have to address challenges such as the provision of sufficient charging infrastructure as well as range limitations in battery technology.

Through continued innovation and investment, electric vehicles will play a key role in creating a greener and more sustainable future.
 

 


Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist

Updated 19 April 2024
Follow

Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist

  • Jawad Al-Omair has established himself as a painter, drawing inspiration from the beauty and pain surrounding him

RIYADH: While his classmates took part in sports activities, Saudi teenage artist Jawad Al-Omair daydreamed about the next time he would pick up a paintbrush or pencil to draw again.

At only 16 years of age, Al-Omair has established himself as an artist, drawing inspiration from the beauty and pain surrounding him.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that his breakthrough moment came when he discovered his artistic abilities in the third grade.

“All the kids used to go to play. I always found myself opening my notebook and just drawing. I remember one day, I drew something at school, and when I got home, I showed it to everyone. I told myself, ‘I should do this more often.’”

HIGHLIGHT

Jawad Al-Omair views color as an arsenal to communicate emotion in his artworks.

He uses acrylic paint to portray his vivid ideas on canvas.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

“With every painting I do, I usually have a vision of what the color palette is going to be and the composition, and most importantly what message and feeling I am trying to deliver through the painting.”

The young artist views color as an arsenal to communicate emotion in his artworks. “If I wanted to paint something that conveys the feeling of being lost, I would usually use cool toned colors like greys and blues.”

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

Al-Omair said that he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks.

“Dana Almasoud is one of my best friends who has helped me so much. Three years ago, I used to be a completely different artist. I used to be unable to draw small portraits, but she taught me how to. I can’t picture how my life would be if I had not met them,” he said.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

In a recent artwork, Al-Omair painted a large-scale self-portrait inspired by the style of John Singer Sargent, an American artist renowned for his portrait paintings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He described Sargent as one of his favorite artists. “If you see his self-portrait, It is similar to mine. I was looking at his artwork while I was painting so I could capture that same vibe.”

It took Al-Omair about 12 hours to complete the self-portrait, which emphasizes his prominent features.

“I get commented on my nose a lot, so I painted it in the center. I wanted to immortalize my 16-year-old self, because who knows what I will look like five years from now?”

The young artist aims to turn all sorts of experiences — even those of friends or family members — into art.

“How would life be if we did not have music or anything beautiful to look at? When you think of an artist, people usually imagine someone with a brush, but it is much bigger than that.

“Art is translating feelings with a certain skill. Movies taught humanity so much because you get to learn about people. Writing, songs and music are emotional things that we share. Art is one of the most important parts of life. Everyone has an artistic side to them that they may have not found yet,” he said.

 


Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Updated 19 April 2024
Follow

Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

  • Funding will help rebuild and repair facilities damaged by natural disasters in the Caribbean island nation

RIYADH: The Saudi Fund for Development signed a $50 million loan agreement with St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday to assist communities affected by natural disasters, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deal was signed by SFD CEO Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad and Camillo Gonsalves, finance minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, during the 2024 spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

According to the World Bank, the southern Caribbean nation faces a host of natural threats, including floods, hurricanes, droughts, landslides, and volcanic eruptions.

The agreement will fund a project to rebuild and repair buildings and facilities damaged by natural disasters in the island nation.

This initiative includes the restoration and construction of essential infrastructure, such as housing, healthcare, educational, and sports facilities, aimed at boosting their durability and resilience against future disasters and climate change impacts.

The project will also include establishing four healthcare centers, building primary and secondary schools, renovating government buildings, and restoring homes damaged by volcanic activity.

The loan is in line with the SFD’s commitment to supporting vulnerable communities around the globe.

Since its inception in 1975, the Saudi fund has financed over 800 development projects and programs worldwide, with total funding exceeding $20 billion.