Fifa appoints first female Saudi referee

Anoud Al Asmari is one of eight Saudis on international panel announced by world football body

Anoud Al Asmari is the first Saudi woman to get a Fifa badge
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Saudi Arabia's first female international referee, Anoud Al Asmari, was appointed by Fifa on Thursday, less than a year after the national women's team made their debut.

“I am happy to be the first Saudi female referee to receive the international badge in the history of Saudi sports,” Al Asmari, one of eight Saudis on the international panel announced by the world body, told AFP.

More that 50,000 girls signed up for the first ever schools league after the women's national football team was set up.

The team then went on to win their first international game in February when they beat Seychelles 2-0 in a friendly.

The women's team was officially established in 2019 by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, which hosts 450 registered players, 49 qualified referees and more than 900 coaches.

Before Saudi Vision 2030, which established a new blueprint for the economic development of the country when it was introduced in 2016, the government did not allow licensed female gyms or sports clubs.

But after the announcement of the 2030 Vision, attitudes towards women’s athletics changed, with the Saudi government creating a new economic development plan to encourage community sports and support elite competitors.

Following Qatar hosting the World Cup last November, Saudi Arabia applied to hold the Women's Asian Cup in 2026 and is the sole bidder for the men's version in 2027.

Early reports in 2022 claimed Riyadh would team up with Egypt and Greece for a joint bid, with matches played across the three countries.

Saudi officials said the country is not making an official bid to host the World Cup, in a retraction of earlier comments made by Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb.

“Saudi Arabia does not have an official bid to host the Fifa World Cup,” a Tourism Ministry spokesman told Bloomberg.

Mr Al Khateeb had a day earlier told Bloomberg in an interview that the kingdom was considering a bid for the 2030 World Cup.

Updated: January 06, 2023, 7:53 AM