The Bahraini Sheikha Hessa bint Khaled Al Khalifa was chosen as the first female member of the Union of Arab Football Associations and announced plans to form women football teams in all the Arab countries.
In its 46th meeting held in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the Executive Committee of the Union of Arab Football Association (UAFA) nominated Monday Sheikha Hessa bint Khaled Al Khalifa as head of the Women’s Committee as well as a member of the Executive Committee.
“I am proud that a Bahraini woman was chosen for this post for which eight other women from different Arab countries were competing,” she told Al Arabiya.
“This is mainly due to the support given to Bahraini women by Sheikha Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the king’s wife and head of the Supreme Council for Women.”
Al Khalifa, the first woman member in the Executive Committee of the UAFA since its foundation in 1974, announced her plans to develop women’s football which has for long been suffering from marginalization in the Arab world.
“I am planning to encourage women to become members of the national football federation in their countries.”
In addition to encouraging women to assume leading positions in football unions, Al Khalifa plans to launch an initiative that promotes football amongst girls all over the Arab world.
“I am hoping to form national football teams for women in all Arab countries and which could later meet the international standards of the FIFA. I am hoping that national football unions will cooperate with me so we can reach this end.”
For Al Khalifa, the inclusion of women in sports like football does not violate the conservative traditions of the Arab world.
“There is no problem as long as girls are decently dressed. Bahrain is a good example since there many parents encourage their girls to play football.”
As for members of the Women’s Committee, Al Khalifa said that her deputy will be appointed by the UAFA Board of Directors, whereas she is going to choose the members after consulting with board members.
Al Khalifa is one of the most prominent leading female youths in Bahrain. In 2002, she formed the first women’s football team in the Rafaa Club and in 2006 formed Bahrain’s first women’s team.
She is currently head of the national women’s football team and is a member of the Women’s Committee at Bahraini Olympic Committee.
Al Khalifa made several contributions to the sports scene in Bahrain. In 2006, the women’s national team won first place in Arab Women’s Football Championship and third place in the West Asian Championship in 2010.
The team was also able to meet the international qualifications and is currently working on qualifying for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).