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.   


GCC citizens temporarily suspended from entering Saudi Arabia’s Makkah, Madinah

Updated 46 min 24 sec ago

GCC citizens temporarily suspended from entering Saudi Arabia’s Makkah, Madinah

  • The decision was made in light of the rising number of coronavirus cases in some GCC countries
  • Suspension for individuals seeking to perform Umrah pilgrimage in Makkah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque

RIYADH: Citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been temporarily banned from entering Saudi Arabia’s holy cities Makkah and Madinah, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The decision was made in light of the rising number of coronavirus cases in some GCC countries like Kuwait and Bahrain, which have 45 and 36 reported cases respectively.
GCC citizens who have been in Saudi Arabia for 14 continuous days and have not displayed symptoms of coronavirus are exempt from the ban, and can obtain a permit from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s website should they wish to perform Umrah and visit the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah.
On Thursday, the Kingdom temporarily suspended entry for individuals seeking to perform the Umrah pilgrimage in Makkah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, as well as tourists traveling from countries where coronavirus poses a risk as determined by the Kingdom’s health authorities.
These countries include China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Kazakhstan.