Saudi female footballers show will to succeed

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USA’s players celebrate their victory in the final. (AFP)
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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
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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.”


SnowBlast KSA brings winter wonderland to Riyadh

Updated 12 sec ago
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SnowBlast KSA brings winter wonderland to Riyadh

  • 30 Olympic and world champions are competing in Kingdom’s first freestyle skiing championship

RIYADH: It is not every day that one can go skiing in Riyadh, and SnowBlast KSA has brought exactly that to the capital, alongside a championship that began on Wednesday as part of Riyadh Season.

Located near the Kingdom Arena zone, north of Riyadh, the area has been transformed into a winter wonderland with over 500 tonnes of snow. The venue features freestyle skiing slopes, family-friendly games, and a series of events accompanying the SnowBlast KSA Cup, the first skiing competition in the Kingdom.

The two-day championship, which concludes on Feb. 29, has brought together over 30 Olympic and world champions in freestyle skiing. This includes Olympic champion Su Yiming who secured two golds in the men’s snowboard slopestyle and Big Air contests at this year’s National Winter Games in China. The 20-year-old, who dominated the FIS World Cup in Beijing last December, is maintaining his momentum.

“I am really happy to be here in Saudi for the snowboarding competition and look forward to it,” Su told Arab News.

Tanner Hall, who has won several awards in freeskiing and 11 medals at the X Games, also spoke to Arab News about coming to Saudi Arabia. “It’s the first time that we come to this part of the world, and we are hoping to put on a show that you guys will like. It’s exciting to come here … and start expanding the horizon of the sport.”

Hall said female athletes will also be invited to compete in the future.

Activities for visitors include being able to participate in snowball fights, building snow people, and attending theater and light shows.


Princess Seetah award honors pioneers in social work

Updated 4 min 59 sec ago
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Princess Seetah award honors pioneers in social work

  • Minister announces eight winners of prestigious Saudi accolade in Riyadh

RIYADH: Eight community partnership leaders have received the 11th Princess Seetah bint Abdulaziz Award for Excellence in Social Work.

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi announced the winners of the prestigious Saudi accolade in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Established in 2012 by royal decree, the Princess Seetah bint Abdulaziz Foundation for Excellence in Social Work encourages and supports community upliftment programs.

The award aims to encourage competition among pioneers of social work, and to support excellence in social work both locally and internationally.

A total of 1,177 candidates applied for the 11th award. Among them, 95 advanced to the scientific evaluation stage, and 15 to the final judging stage. Following thorough screening and field visits for each candidate, the judging committee selected eight winners.

Al-Rajhi, chairman of the board of the foundation, praised the award, highlighting its societal value and pioneering role and alignment with the ministry’s objectives for community development, national initiatives and innovation.

A number of princes and individuals interested in social work attended the ceremony for the Princess Seetah bint Abdulaziz Excellence Award for Social Work in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Princess Nouf bint Abdullah bin Saud Al-Kabeer, chair of the foundation’s executive committee, said that the award was in line with the state’s direction in social work.

She stressed the award’s pivotal role in fostering and motivating creative work while adopting ideas, initiatives and projects for regional development in social, humanitarian and charitable work within the Kingdom.

Princess Nouf praised the award’s diverse partnerships with government, non-government and civil society organizations. These partnerships enhanced the award’s objectives, especially in empowering young individuals and improving their skills.

Dr. Fahad Al-Maghlouth, the foundation’s secretary-general, said that the common goal was to serve the nation and enhance citizens’ lives.

He said that the 11th award’s theme, “Community Partnerships in Meeting Humanitarian Needs,” reflected Saudi Arabia’s support for the social sector.

Al-Maghlouth also highlighted the award’s interest in human needs and its efforts to align with the state’s objectives, asserting that social responsibility was a collective obligation for all.

The excellence in national achievement award went to Mohammed bin Saleh Albuty, CEO of the National Housing Co., and Firas Aba Al-Khail, deputy general manager of business at the Human Resources Development Fund.

The excellence in Islamic endowment award went to Mansour bin Mohammed Al-Jumaih, deputy secretary-general of the Mohamed Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Jomaih Endowments Foundation.

The excellence in social work programs award went to Nora Al-Rashid, deputy chairperson of the board of the Abdul Moneim Al-Rashid Humanitarian Foundation.

Prince Sultan bin Salman received the award in the category of excellence for social work pioneers.

The corporate social responsibility award went to Mohammed Al-Abbadi, CEO of the transport and operators unit at Saudi Telecommunication Co., and Abdulmalik Al-Rajhi, chairman of the board of Hail Cement Co.

Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Mushaikeh, a former member of the Saudi Shoura Council, received the environmental sustainability award.


Klaija Festival boosts local economy with $5.3m in sales

Updated 7 min 40 sec ago
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Klaija Festival boosts local economy with $5.3m in sales

  • The 20-day event, which ended on Feb. 27, was held at the King Khalid Cultural Center

RIYADH: The 15th Klaija Festival in Buraidah has recorded SR20 million ($5.3 million) in sales, marking a boost to the local economy.

The 20-day event, which ended on Feb. 27, was held at the King Khalid Cultural Center.

Over 20,000 people visited the festival each day which is held annually to boost local entrepreneurship, cuisine and handicrafts.

Organized by the Qassim Chamber of Commerce, the festival featured participants from Gulf countries, along with 217 families and 20 craftsmen specializing in handicrafts.

In response to the increased demand and attendance, Qassim Gov. Prince Faisal bin Mishaal had extended the festival by 10 days.

Nayef Al-Mansaleh, the executive director of the festival, said more than 700 young men and women from various organizations had supported the event.

The klaija dessert is one of the leading products of the region and has helped to create jobs for local producers. Klaija’s ingredients include wheat flour, sugar, lemon, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and molasses. The dough is stuffed with some of the ingredients and baked to a crisp.

Diplomats from Ghana, Finland, Algeria, Maldives, accompanied by their families, had attended the event in Buraidah earlier this month.


Saudi cultural center to launch reading, anti-desertification project

Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi cultural center to launch reading, anti-desertification project

  • Ithra in Dhahran hosts event which includes Alexandria and Rabat
  • Goal is to read 500,000 pages and plant 5,000 trees in 3 Arab cities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture launches Thursday a three-day reading marathon and anti-desertification project, that will take place in three Arab cities.

Also known as Ithra, the center will host the event in cooperation with the Library of Alexandria and the Moroccan National Library. It will be held simultaneously in the Kingdom’s city of Dhahran, Alexandria in Egypt and Rabat in Morocco, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The center is promoting reading, especially in public libraries, and all three cities will ensure a tree is planted for every 100 pages read.

The aim is to have participants read 500,000 pages and plant 5,000 trees.

To plant the trees, the Ithra center is working with the National Center for Vegetation Development to Combat Desertification in Saudi Arabia, and authorities in Egypt and Morocco.

Each reader will receive a commemorative medal for participating.

Bronze medals will be awarded to those who read 100 pages, silver for 200 pages, and gold for 1,000 pages.

The first edition of the marathon was held inside the Ithra library, achieving 162,000 pages read and 1,622 trees planted. The second edition was also held in the Ithra library and two libraries in Riyadh and Tabuk, with 422,000 pages read and 4,222 trees planted.

The planting of seedlings took place in October in the Al-Ahsa National Park with the participation of several readers.


Saudi crown prince meets with Ukraine president in Riyadh

Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi crown prince meets with Ukraine president in Riyadh

  • Saudi-Ukrainian relations, latest developments in Ukrainian-Russian war were discussed
  • Crown prince stressed Kingdom’s support for all international efforts aimed at resolving crisis

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Riyadh on Tuesday.

During their meeting, aspects of Saudi-Ukrainian relations were reviewed, and the latest developments in the Ukrainian-Russian war were discussed, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The crown prince stressed the Kingdom’s support for all international endeavors and efforts aimed at resolving the crisis and achieving peace, and continuing efforts to alleviate the humanitarian repercussions of the war. 

Zelensky wrote on social media platform X that he would discuss prisoners of war and deportees with the crown prince.

“The Kingdom’s leadership has already contributed to the release of our people. I am confident that this meeting will also yield results,” he wrote. 

The crown prince was involved in securing the release of 10 foreign prisoners captured in Ukraine in September 2022 which then enabled a major prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

The president added that he will discuss “promising areas of economic cooperation and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Ukraine’s reconstruction” during his visit. 

Zelensky left Riyadh later on Tuesday evening and was seen off by deputy govenor of Riyadh Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz.