First female Saudi football referee eyes World Cup

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Sham Al-Ghamdi bein interviewed after refereeing the first women football championship match in Jeddah. (Supplied)
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Sham Al-Ghamdi bein interviewed after refereeing the first women football championship match in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Updated 11 October 2019

First female Saudi football referee eyes World Cup

  • Sham Al-Ghamdi hopes to gain recognition from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and become a FIFA-certified international football referee.

Saudi Arabia’s first female football referee already has her sights set on taking charge of a World Cup match.

“I spend hours reading and listening to advice from refereeing experts,” 22-year-old Sham Al-Ghamdi told Arab News. “To referee a World Cup match would be a dream come true.”

Al-Ghamdi, who is studying English literature at university, said her interest in football began when she was only nine.

“One day I saw players in a match voice their anger at a referee’s decision. I wished at that moment I was in the referee’s shoes,” she said.

“Since then I have been following football events on TV, listening to the pundits’ comments and analyzing the performance of the referee.”

Al-Ghamdi’s passion for football came as a surprise to her family.

“My father is not interested in football. When he heard about my hobby, he only advised me to avoid injuries as much as I could. He cannot bear seeing me hurt,” she said.

The young referee hopes to undertake more intensified training courses to help her dream of officiating a World Cup match come true.

“I am optimistic and ambitious. The sky is the limit,” she said. “I have enough information about officiating matches. I read about all the old and modern rules approved by the FIFA in order to acquire the basic skills an amateur referee needs.”

Al-Ghamdi said that she had learned to manage football matches through personal participation and by watching experienced referees.

When she faced difficulties getting the necessary official permits, she focused on refereeing friendly matches.

“I did my best to avoid mistakes in the first-ever women’s championship in Jeddah. Good referees ensure safe games,” she said.

“Now I am happy that my dream to become a referee has come true. Saudi women can achieve success in the sports sector and they can take part in world championships. We are no less than men. We only need support,” she said.

Al-Ghamdi said that she hopes to gain recognition from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) and become a FIFA-certified international football referee.

Saudis should work hand in hand to improve standards in science, culture and sport, she said.

“We need to support one another to develop our society on all levels. Without that we can’t make the changes we are dreaming of,” she added.   


Saudi Cup ‘double or nothing’ with two horses in $20m race for leading agent Ted Voute

Updated 28 min 41 sec ago

Saudi Cup ‘double or nothing’ with two horses in $20m race for leading agent Ted Voute

  • Voute has been responsible for the purchase of six horses featuring in this weekend’s Saudi Cup meet
  • Since 1986 Voute has produced horses for the world’s premier sales on behalf of the some of the best-known breeders

LONDON: Securing a win in Saturday's $20 million Saudi Cup would be one of British bloodstock agent Ted Voute’s “greatest” achievements, the leading consignor said in the build-up to the world’s richest race.

Voute has been responsible for the purchase of six horses featuring in this weekend’s Saudi Cup meet, including two in the headline race.

Mjjack, a recent winner of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup, as well as Great Scot, were bought from the UK for owner Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdul Aziz.

“Great Scot gets in (to the Saudi Cup) by virtue of being the highest-rated horse in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I bought him late last year from Tom Dascombe in England. He hasn’t started there yet, but he’s a lovely horse,” Voute told Arab News.

“The other horse, Mjjack, I bought a couple of years ago. He won the King’s Cup (on Feb. 8), which gave him a free place, so I’m particularly proud of those two runners.

“It would be right up there if I bought the first Saudi Cup winner, it would be one of the greatest things I had ever done,” he added.

Since 1986 Voute has produced horses for the world’s premier sales on behalf of the some of the best-known breeders. In the past three decades, his consistent results in the sales ring and on the track have confirmed him as one of Europe’s leading consignors.

Voute has also bought several horses for another Saudi owner, Prince A.A. Faisal, including Mishriff, which runs in the Saudi Derby, one of the races going off before the Saudi Cup.

“From the prince’s point of view, Mishriff is named after a good friend of his who died and it would mean an immense amount to him (if the horse won),” he said. “It would be a wonderful story if, in his first race back as a three-year-old, he wins the Saudi derby as a preparation race to a Classic run.”

With several clients in Saudi Arabia, Voute is well placed to comment on the achievement by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, in setting up a top-class racing meet in such a short time.

“It’s amazing, really, I don’t think there has been a day with that much prize money in history. It has definitely grabbed people’s attention,” he said. “I was in a taxi from the airport with the trainer of Maximum Security, and (he said) he got a passport for the first time to travel outside the US to be in Saudi Arabia, which I thought was fantastic.

“To think this was only an idea not even a year ago. I saw Prince Bandar at Royal Ascot, and I think that’s where (Saudi Arabia) made the decision — and it’s just unbelievable what they’ve done from June to now. A lot of wealthy owners will venture out to Saudi Arabia and see what a wonderful country it is.

“It will show people they can travel in winter and pick up these sorts of races and prize money; it will really put Saudi Arabia on the calendar as a stepping stone to one of the European Classics,” he said.