POSTED: May 31st 2012
Qatar & Kuwait: Win-win situation for womens football
AJU GEORGE CHRIS / Doha Stadium Plus
May 31 - For fans who feast on the heroics of Argentinian Lionel Messi and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo week after week, at least for some of them anyway, the football match between the women’s teams of Qatar and Kuwait, at the Qatar Sports Club, may not be the best show on earth.
Understandably, several male spectators hooted and laughed each time a player fell down clumsily on the field. Not that the girls on the field cared.
But at the same time, there was an unmistakable glint of hero-worship in the eyes of numerous girls cheering from the stands.
While the game was rather slow, the humid conditions made progress even more difficult. The match ended in a 2-0 win for the home side, deservedly. The visitors, though, got something even more deserving out of the match. Something even more important. It was the rebirth of women’s football of that country.
A classic win-win situation.
The first Kuwait team, formed in 2007, had to be disbanded three years later, after they lost 0-17 to Palestine during a competition in Abu Dhabi. A section of the country’s clerics also opposed the side. But the girls seem even more determined this time around. Their coach Anwab Boutaiban agreed.
“Some Kuwaitis oppose women’s sports. But my wards are very determined to continue,” said Boutaiban.
“We personally got permission from their parents to travel to Qatar. We’ve their support. We currently train on the outer fields of the Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City, but are desperately seeking better facilities,” he said.
“My girls were excited to come to Qatar as it was their first competitive match. All of them are young. Some are just out of school. It was a huge opportunity for both teams and they played without pressure,” he added.
If Kuwait used the friendly to gain experience, for Qatar, it was about fine-tuning their side ahead of a training camp in Turkey. They are also keen to play more games in order to improve their FIFA rankings.
“We’re currently ranked 34th in Asia and 135th in the world. We’re trying to improve it further by playing friendlies on official FIFA match days. We’re planning more games,” said Qatar’s Portuguese coach Helena Costa.
Qatari striker Wassan Yousef, who scored both goals, was optimistic about the women’s game taking off.
“It’s all a matter of time. We’ve come a long way since forming the team in ’08,” she said.
“We now have a Qatar League and the number of participating teams is set to go up next year. These are exciting times to be a woman footballer in Qatar,” she said.
The Qatar League has been a big step in the right direction. The second edition featured six teams — Qatar United, Al Kharaitiyat, Al Sadd, Al Ahli, Al Rayyan and Lekhwiya. Qatar United, coached by Costa, won the three-month long competition.
She felt it helped the girls.
“Several players from the national team featured in Qatar United. The league helped my wards put their training into practice. They made the most of it,” said Costa.
Tunisian referee Lilia Abdeljaoud too felt Qatari girls had improved over time.
“I had officiated games involving Qatar in the past. I’ve noticed an improvement in their game style and possession play. But they need to play higher-ranked teams to improve further,” she said.
A male spectator, who did not wish to be identified, summed up the game perfectly.
“I never thought I’ll see Qatari women on a football field. They’re path-breakers. When the country looks back on women’s sports 50 years from now, the names of these girls will shine the brightest. They’re making a difference, one game at a time,” he said.
Yousuf was right. Exciting times are ahead for Qatari women’s football. DSP
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