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Saudi Arabia's Evolution with the Introduction of the FIFA Football for Schools Programme.

Roger Hampel

Saudi Arabia FIFA
Saudi Arabia FIFA

Football has found its way into Saudi Arabia's schools in recent times. Between October 16-18, 2023, Saudi Arabia embraced the FIFA Football for Schools Programme, showcasing a notable shift in cultural perspectives. With the rapid growth of women's football in the nation, this initiative is set to familiarize young girls with the game from a tender age.

Years back, the idea of girls and boys in Saudi Arabia sharing a celebratory high-five after scoring a goal together seemed almost impossible. The culture back then was such that football was a sport largely played by men, and coed activities were seldom seen. However, during the FIFA Football for Schools Programme's inauguration in Jeddah on October 18, this scene was not only visible but felt genuinely authentic.

The landscape of football, especially women's football, in Saudi Arabia has transformed in a brief period. As stated by Ibrahim Alkassim, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), the country now boasts of four regional training hubs. Efforts are underway to train female educators, with 40 courses designed to empower them to coach and nurture female students in schools. Furthermore, there are three women's national football teams, with a dedicated department of 23 professionals focused on advancing women's football.

Aalia Abdulaziz AlRasheed, who leads the Women’s Football Department at the SAFF, is optimistic about the future of women’s football in the nation. She expresses that the evolution of women's football in Saudi mirrors the broader progressive changes happening in various domains across the country. The Football for Schools team, which visited Saudi Arabia in mid-October, both observed and augmented this progress.

Guided by expert instructors from the Football for Schools initiative, the three-day event saw coaches and school students, irrespective of gender, collaborate enthusiastically. Their collective efforts aim to make football more approachable for Saudi's young population. In doing so, they are also reinforcing the country’s educational foundation by integrating the values of football – a central tenet of the Football for Schools Programme.

Fatimata Sidibe, who is at the helm of the FIFA Football for Schools Programme, commended the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) for its commendable progress. She believes the inception of the Football for Schools Programme in Saudi Arabia symbolizes the remarkable transformation the country has witnessed in recent years.

Furthermore, over 120 educators and coaches, both men and women, from different parts of Saudi Arabia, attended specialized workshops. These sessions were led by Antonio Buenaño Sánchez, the Football for Schools Manager, and women’s football specialists Susan Ronan Martin and Thuba Sibanda. These educators are now charged with the mission to spread the ethos of the Football for Schools programme, emphasizing the game's positive attributes and its significance in shaping young minds.

Source: FIFA


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