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Women’s football in Jordan makes goals, rolls towards bright future

By Johanna Montanari - Nov 12,2019 - Last updated at Nov 13,2019

There are currently 1,000 women and girls registered with the Jordanian Football Association at its official clubs and grassroots centres, according to Soleen Zoubi, head of women’s football at the association (Photo courtesy of JFA)

AMMAN — The situation for women football players in Jordan has improved drastically in recent years, said Soleen Zoubi, head of women’s football at the Jordanian Football Association (JFA) and former women’s national team football player.

Zoubi herself experienced a “difficult journey” to becoming a football player in the Kingdom.  When she began playing in 2002, there was no professional women’s football team in the country, she said.

She started playing with a group of girls “as a hobby”, but after the girls played in a tournament at the University of Jordan, “the JFA realised that there were some really good players who could play football,” Zoubi recounted in an interview with The Jordan Times on Sunday.

Thanks to HRH Prince Ali, president of the JFA, Jordan started its first women’s national team in 2005, with Zoubi a part of it.

During the same year, the women’s national team participated in the West Asia Football Federation women’s championship and won the tournament. “After that, everyone started to believe that we have a really good team in Jordan,” Zoubi noted.

She said that when she began playing football, the infrastructure was poor and there was no financial support for girls and women who wanted to play. Additionally, many faced challenges with their relatives and families.

“I was one of them,” Zoubi said. “I was the only girl among three boys, so my mother wanted me to do something that girls do. But I kept pursuing my dream. I really wanted to play,” Zoubi told The Jordan Times.

“So many girls faced difficulties, especially girls from the region,” she said, adding: “It was hard for them to go outside and play, to wear shorts.”

Women football players encountered further difficulties when they became a topic of discussion on social media. “We faced so many challenges with the comments of guys on social media,” Zoubi noted.

Circumstances changed after Jordan's hosting of the 2016 Women's U-17 World Cup and the 2018 Women's Asian Cup, which were two very important events for the development of women’s football in the Kingdom, according to Zoubi.

“Since then, everything has been different,” said Zoubi. “Now, parents call the JFA to ask where they can enroll their daughters to play football.”

“This is all thanks to the support of Prince Ali, who wanted to improve women’s football in Jordan,” she explained.

“Now, we have 15 grassroots centres across Jordan where women practice three times a week. We have also started many projects in schools,” Zoubi added.

The JFA also recently held its inaugural Women’s Pro-League.

“It’s something I’ve always longed for,” Stephanie Al Naber, captain of Jordan's women's national team, was quoted as saying in an article published recently by FIFA, adding: “I’ve been dreaming of a full women’s football season in Jordan ever since I started playing in 2005.”

Another success was Prince Ali’s efforts to lift the FIFA ban on head covers. 

“Prince Ali took up this issue and did everything to change that decision,” Zoubi said, adding that in 2014, FIFA officially authorised the wearing of head covers. 

“Today, there are 1,000 women and girls registered with the JFA at its official clubs and grassroots centres, most of whom are between the ages of 11 and 30. There are more girls playing football at school, of course,” Zoubi said.

As for the future of football, Zoubi hopes for two things: “I hope that we reach and qualify for the upcoming Women’s World Cup in 2023. And I hope that in the future, women’s football and men’s football will be equal — financially, with the fans, everything. I don’t want to have anything less in women’s football than in men’s football.”

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