Women's football continues to develop in Qatar
On the last day of Ramadan Futsal Festival, Al Khor team was crowned as champions of 2015 edition. Organised by Aspire Zone Foundation in tandem with Qatar Women's Sport Committee, five competing teams were involved in the tournament: Al Sadd, Al Khor, Al Merengue, Qatar and Barcelona.
The Qatari Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy website covered the event, meeting the competitors and talking with them about their football experience and the general challenges facing women's football in Qatar.
The winners, Al Khor Team
"I began playing football at school in 2003," recalled Al Merengue player Sheikha Bourshid, a graduate of Qatar University. "I also played with my university team and in regional tournaments, before performing at national level. It's not been an easy path to take, because our society thinks that football is only reserved for men."
Nosra Abdullah Al-Sayabi, a student in the Community College, is another participant who views football as part of her daily life and who hopes to one day turn professional. In her opinion, the resources required to create strong club teams and improve the national women's team are available, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome. "Parents often refuse to let their daughters train and travel regularly. Players' sudden departures can have a really negative impact on team unity," she explained.
Goalkeeper Hissa Rashed Al-Mari, who recently joined Al Merengue team and is gradually attempting to establish herself in the side, pointed out that the competition provided an excellent opportunity to stay fit during the month of Ramadan.
All three players were in agreement about the possibility of forming competitive women's clubs in Qatar, pointing to the country's successful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ as the catalyst for change, and were hopeful that the global event can give domestic women's football a welcome boost and even change the way in which it is viewed by Qatari society.
"I'm with Al Khor; we're regarded as the strongest team in Qatar, due to the fact we won the most recent league championship," said Al-Sayabi. "We win this Ramadan tournament festival because the cohesion and harmony of our team . We've got a solid team and we've been playing together for quite some time. On top of that, our training sessions are intensive and of a high standard."
Returning to the wider picture, Bourshid added that, in her view, the hard work has already been done and that each club in Qatar should now focus on enhancing the level of its women's teams.
Refereeing coordinator Haya Al-Shammari, meanwhile, thinks that the encouraging changes that are occurring generally within the Middle Eastern nation are having a favourable impact on women's sport, and that tournaments such as this one enable observers to measure the progress made by players as well as referees. "I'm very happy to take part in this competition. There have been very few refereeing errors or debates about the officiating, which shows how far women's football referees have come," she said.
She also had a message for budding female referees. "There is a programme run in conjunction with the Qatari FA's Refereeing Committee that encourages women to try their hand at refereeing. It is aimed at secondary school students and involves theoretical and practical components. It has produced no fewer than 60 female referees to date."