Middle Eastern soccer associations have launched a campaign to put women’s football on par with men’s football in a region in which woman’s rights to play and pursue an athletic careers have been controversial.
The associations announced the campaign at the end of the two-day seminar “Women‘s Football In West Asia: Moving Ahead”, in the Jordanian capital Amman organised by the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) and the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP), which is chaired and supported by FIFA vice- President Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.
“An athletic woman is an empowered woman”
A statement at the end of the seminar chaired by FIFA Vice President and AFDP Chairman Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein defined “an athletic woman” as “an empowered woman who further empowers her community.”
“I am confident our discussions will enable us to make concrete recommendations for the next steps for the way forward for women’s football in our region. We have a lot of potential, let us make it happen”, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein also explained.
The seminar was backed by the representatives of the UN, UEFA, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the English FA with the campaign coming as women are demanding greater rights in a part of the world that has entered a period of dramatic political and social change.
The statement went to emphasise the right of women to play football irrespective of culture, religion and race; a women’s right to opt for football as a career rather than only as a sport; and football’s ability to promote gender equality and level the playing field on and off the pitch.
Call for appointments to Boards
The statement also called for the appointment of women to the boards of WAFF member associations, establishment of a WAFF women’s committee, creation of Under-16 and Under-19 women competitions in the Middle East (West Asia) as well as the compulsory rotation of hosting of subsidised WAFF women competitions.
The campaign will start with a WAFF Girls Football Festival on International Women’s Day on March 8.
“Female athletes in the Middle East face pressures that include family, religion, politics, and culture,” said a recent study entitled ‘Muslim Female Athletes and the Hijab’ by Geoff Harkness, a sociologist at Northwestern University’s campus in Qatar, and one of his basketball playing students, Samira Islam.
In 2012 Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia of deferring to conservative forces who claim that female sports contradict social and cultural values. The groups report came as the kingdom dropped a plan to build a stadium in 2014 designed to allow women who are barred from attending football matches because of the kingdom’s strict public gender segregation to watch games.
Prince Ali last year waged a successful campaign to get FIFA to overturn a FIFA ban agree on the wearing of the hijab after suggestions that the conventional head- scarf does not comply with safety requirements.