As Qatar gets increasingly serious about promoting fitness and health among its residents, females here are starting to make new strides in the sports arena.
For example, the nation’s interest in women’s football is growing.
When FIFA conducted the women’s football workshop for all West Arab countries in 2004, Ahlam Al Mana, Chairperson of the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee, became inspired to promote the sport here.
Despite cultural resistance, the first futsal tournament (a modified version of football, with fewer players) took place at the Qatar Women’s Sports Dome in 2009.
In 2010, the national football team of Qatar played their first international match in Bahrain in the Arabia Cup. And in 2012, the Qatar Women’s Football League was created, which today has 7 clubs.
Monika Staab, a renowned German football manager who coached FFC Frankfurt for 11 years and helped lead it to several titles, coaches all of the teams. Speaking to Doha News, she said:
“Football is a sport as any other sports. Thirty million women and girls are playing football all over the world and every day the number of players is increasing.
There is nothing wrong (with) playing football. It is a sport for boys and girls. Unfortunately there are many prejudices which do exists in the society, especially in the Muslim (community).”
Because Islam encourages modesty, Staab said she hears various concerns from parents, including that it is not appropriate for girls to engage in physical activity in public, that sports clothing is often tight and revealing and that engaging in sports makes daughters seem less feminine and less desirable.
Nevertheless, it seems that families in Qatar are becoming more tolerant toward the idea of allowing their daughters to play football.
Take 15-year old Asma Ali Al-Sorore, a Qatari teen who played football for the national team for six years. She told Doha News:
“I did not feel any cultural challenges while playing football. My father allows me to play as long I do my study and pass the exams.”
Al-Sorore also highlighted the health benefits she enjoyed from regularly engaging with sports.
“Playing football is better than staying at home and watching only TV – then you put on weight which is no good for your health. It is much better to train twice a week (and) feel much better afterwards.”
Her father Ali Al-Sorore said he is very supportive of his daughter involvement in football due to the health and social benefits. Speaking to Doha News, he added: “It keeps her busy with something useful.”
Al-Sorore acknowledged the uneasiness Muslim societies feel when women engage in sports. “It’s new to us, women playing sports,” he said.
Nonetheless, he pointed out that there are fewer objections towards this issue now as women can play sports in public while still dressing modestly.
“Parents who have enough education, experience and have seen the world would encourage their children to do sports,” he said.
AFC U-14 Championship on March 21
To continue making progress, Staab said officials are seeking young talent to compete in the Qatar’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-14 Championship on March 21.
Qataris and those born in Qatar who are 12 to 14 year-old are welcome to enroll and train with the national team, but for the purposes of the tournament, which commences on March 21, only Qatari girls are being recruited.
For more information, contact head coach, Monika Staab at 6645 2364, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This article previously incorrectly stated that the tournament was open to people of all nationalities. Only Qataris are being recruited.