Anxiety as Saudi begins female football, hires first coach regardless of gender, religious bias

August 23, 2021
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Germany’s Monika Staab hopes that religious barriers can be torn down as she starts her job as a first-ever coach of a women’s national football team in Saudi Arabia.

Staab, who will start the new job on Sept. 1, told the German Football Federation (DFB) website she hoped to contribute to improved women’s rights in the conservative kingdom.

“It is an adventure I am looking forward to. I don’t know exactly what to expect,” said Staab, a former Bundesliga coach who has also coached in Bahrain and Qatar.

“It is a historic task. I am looking forward to being part of the first women’s international in the history of Saudi Arabia. We are working on that and there is a lot to be done until then.”

The 62-year-old Staab said further that “I am curious” even though women’s football is fully integrated in the Saudi federation.

“If I had accepted a similar engagement at a European federation I would have known what to expect. That is not the case here but also part of the appeal,” she said.

Staab said she would travel (round) the country to look at the foundations of women’s football which started its first league in November.

Teams are nine a side but Staab wants the usual 11 players as soon as possible.

The coach said she hopes that football can help further improve women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

It is a place where women have only been allowed to drive a car since 2018 and can now also attend football games.

“Many want to kick a ball. The task is rather to convince the parents to allow their girls to play football,” she said.

“We have to reduce the religious barriers. The parents must allow their daughters to appear in public.

“We will have achieved a lot if we succeed with that. It is a pity that such obstacles still exist. It will be a lot of work but it is worth it.

“Football is a good way to move things into the right direction. We want to achieve something for women’s football there.

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