Saudi Arabia women's team make history with first international tournament success

Head coach Monika Staab says victory will inspire next generation 'across every corner' of kingdom

Monika Staab, the Saudi Arabia women's head coach, celebrates with her team. Photo: Saudi Arabian Football Federation
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Saudi Arabia women’s national football team has won its first international – a moment described by head coach Monika Staab as an “important milestone” in the kingdom’s football.

The national team finished top of the four-team Women’s International Friendly Tournament in the Eastern Province, with Thursday’s 1-1 draw in the finale against Pakistan securing their place in the history books. Saudi had in the past week defeated Mauritius and Comoros. Pakistan finished runners-up.

“Winning this tournament is an important milestone in Saudi Arabian football and will give the players huge confidence as they progress their national team careers,” Staab said. “I am delighted with the players and how they performed over the past three games – it provides a huge springboard for future success.

“It is a success that very much constitutes inspiration for young girls across every corner of Saudi Arabia as well as the other talented, young players in the Premier League who aspire to play international football.”

The competition marked the first time a women’s 11-a-side international tournament had been hosted in the country. The success strengthens the progress made within the women’s game in the kingdom since the establishment in 2019 of a dedicated women’s football department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF).

The country now boasts 520 registered players and almost 50,000 girls in the inaugural schools’ league. The first regional women’s football league was launched in 2021 with 16 teams, with an eight-team Premier League introduced last October.

The competition was rebranded as the First Division Women’s League, comprising 17 teams competing across three cities. In all, 25 clubs across the two divisions.

Speaking after Thursday's tournament win, Lamia Bahaian, supervisor of the Women’s Football Department and board member at the SAFF, said: “This is a momentous day in Saudi Arabian football, and we congratulate the talented players in the women’s national team, as well as all the management, coaching and staff members, on this wonderful achievement. We are all very proud.

“Winning this tournament will inspire many young girls across the kingdom to become involved in football and experience all the joys that the beautiful game offers.

“We thank each of Comoros, Pakistan, and Mauritius for coming to Saudi Arabia to participate in the tournament, wish them the best of luck in their own women’s football development initiatives, and look forward to facing them on the field again in the future.”

Updated: January 24, 2023, 6:11 AM
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