From November 20 to December 18, cameras will be focused on Qatar, the host country of the Men’s World Cup. For more than ten years, this Persian Gulf emirate has invested without counting in the round ball, especially through this World Cup in 2022. However, women’s football does not seem to have benefited from all this investment and momentum.
On October 18, 2010, the women’s soccer team of Qatar played the first match in its history (defeat against Bahrain 17-0). On December 2, 2010, Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 Men’s World Cup.
Twelve years later, the small emirate is preparing to host tens of thousands of fans from around the world. On the other hand, his women’s team disappeared from the radar since April 2014 and the fifteenth game (an 8-2 defeat, also against Bahrain). So much so that it no longer even appears in the rankings of the International Football Federation (FIFA) since the end of 2015.
So, were the Maroon Ladies – the nickname for the women’s team players – created solely to give Qatar’s 2010 bid a good image? ” I don’t know if we were created just for the World Cup. I was happy to play footballunderscores Suaad Salim Al Hashimi, captain of the dormant national team. Everyone can see that we haven’t played for a long time. Only at local competitions. So I can’t say we exist “.
Women’s national team in the gray zone
Nigerian Gloria Kwabe, who arrived in Qatar in 2011 as a player, was his coach from 2018 to 2022. Since the departure of the former coach, we have only trained and played friendly matchesshe confirms. There were no more serious activities at the international level. Why? I don’t know… Meanwhile, there was Covid-19 “.
Since then, the Qataris have played a few rare friendly matches, such as the one in December 2020 with the American team Washington Spirit. An unofficial selection, made up of Qatari athletes, also played a match against Afghan refugees on November 10, 2021. Finally, several rare female soccer players completed internships in the United States last September, including Suaad Salim Al Hashimi.
This situation may seem paradoxical in a country that has spent tens of billions of dollars on the men’s World Cup, several hundred million euros on the French club Paris Saint-Germain, and has made sport the king of its showcase.
Fifa’s communications department did not respond to inquiries about the topic. This highlights her many achievements in promoting women’s football around the world. However, his strategy ensures that ” by 2022, 100% [de ses] member associations must have a developed strategy for women’s football “.
Qatar isn’t really there because its football association (QFA) doesn’t directly govern competitions and women’s teams in its country. We contacted several times in writing on this topic, but no response came from QFA.
” I can’t say that Qataris like women’s football any more than I can say that they don’t. Because if they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t even accept it, emphasizes Gloria Kwalbe. But I’m pretty sure that the Federation has an interest, but is still looking for a way to solve this issue of women’s football “.
A 2018 Deutsche Welle documentary about women’s football in Qatar
Play out of sight
Meanwhile, the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee (QWSC) oversees it, as well as other women’s sports. Amna Al Qassimi, Executive Director of QWSC, in writing refers to ” Customs and traditions “, ” early marriage of some players ” where is ” study abroad explain this lack of continuity.
Norwegian explorer Charlotte Lysawho in 2019 devoted an article to this issue in the framework of the book Sport, politics and society in the Middle Eastalso see several causes: First, investment in women’s sports is not even close to investment in men’s sports, and elite sports are favored over grassroots or community sports. So, when Qatar founded its first women’s national football team in 2010, there were no established structures at the lower levels. In the years that followed, there were few successful attempts to develop grassroots activities or to recruit women. »
The Middle East expert also highlights cultural factors: “ Playing for the national team involves a certain level of exposure that includes wearing football gear and being physically active in public, including on television. Many Qatari women would not be comfortable with this due to personal beliefs, family expectations or social norms. »
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani poses among girls and boys on National Sports Day 2022.
It is also enough to see the numerous sports campaigns carried out by the Qatari authorities in recent years aimed at young girls, highlighting them among boys of their age, to understand that some social blocks can appear around adolescence. ” Many of the women I interviewed during my fieldwork played soccer growing up with their brothers and cousins, only to be told it was no longer appropriate when they became teenagers.adds Charlotte Lysa. Others had family support for playing soccer, and playing soccer in a private or private setting was considered less problematic than in a public or professional setting. The community of Qatari citizens is small and rumors spread quickly. Being known as a woman who plays soccer could mean that you are masculine, and this is something that many Qatari women express discomfort with. “.
An analysis shared in part by Suaad Salim Al Hashimi: ” Yes, there are girls whose families don’t agree with them playing soccer. These families think he has too much contact or is too physical. Or they don’t like social media showing their daughters. But there are also many parents who do not mind all this and who support their daughters. »
The young Qataris who make up Qatar Sport Lab finished second in the first edition of the Gulf Club Championship last October.
قمتطفات من سبورت لاب النسائية الخليجية العلومى لكر القدم ولتى أقيمت في رياضquent committee pic.twitter.com/whJIij3GS6
— رياضة المرونة القطرية (@QatarWomenSport) October 15, 2022
As a result, since 2011 there has been a national championship that gathers 6 to 8 clubs every season. His goal is to broadcast football in the women’s community », « spread sports culture in society in general “, from ” to recruit exceptional and talented players for national teams ” and from ” to support and develop women’s football in the country “, lists Amna Al Qassimi.
” It’s a great achievement for me.claims Gloria Kwalbe. Because now it’s a little more open. There are many more players on social networks. Before, they were not used to going to social networks “.
Suaad Salim Al Hashimi plays for Al Khor, the best women’s club in the country. She could be bitter, because despite all that, no one called her to contribute to the men’s World Cup, even if there was a video of the players sending letters of encouragement to the players of the men’s selection. ” We are in no way involved in the World Cup “, assures the one who passed her coaching diplomas.
The 35-year-old could also be jealous of the Saudi women who played their first international match last February and have since enjoyed real institutional support. Their association, for example, has submitted documentation for the organization of the Asian Women’s Cup in 2026, which should qualify for the World Cup in 2027. I see how the Saudis are progressing and I am happy for themreplies the Qatari. Women’s football is complicated everywhere. So it’s great to see this kind of support “.
And to conclude, with a touch of hope: We should all be optimistic because social media and the media can shine a light on women’s football. We hope that after the World Cup we will be able to open a new chapter for women’s football in Qatar. We have many talents and they deserve to be recognized. »
A desire that reflects the more global thinking of researchers Nabil Ennasri and Raphaël Le Magoariec in the book The Empire of Qatar: The New Master of the Game? : ” From our point of view, it will take time for the progressive discourse of the authorities, especially that led by Qatari women, to take root in the heart of a society in motion, where women’s sports, against all odds, are progressing slowly but surely. »