Does the Moroccan women's team change the image of Arab women's football?  |  DW |  04.09.2022

Does the Moroccan women’s team change the image of Arab women’s football? | DW | 04.09.2022

There has been a lot of improvement in women’s football in the Arab world, and interest in it has increased over the past years. Despite this, no Arab women’s team has been able to make a significant change in the world of women’s football worldwide.

However, this matter changed last July through the Moroccan women’s football team, which became the first Arab team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup after reaching the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup hosted by Morocco after beating Botswana 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the tournament. Continental competition.

The Moroccan women will face the strongest women’s teams in the world at the Women’s World Cup, which will be held from July 20 to August 20 next year in New Zealand and Australia.

After qualifying, captain Ghozlan Al Shebbak said, “I cannot describe my feeling after we achieved a historic achievement. This qualification is the result of many years of work.”

“We have achieved the dream of many people, we are not finished yet, we want to reach the final and lift the cup,” added Ghozlan, who was chosen as the best player in the Atlantic Women’s match against Botswana.

Weak Arab presence

The achievement of Moroccan women is seen as an important step in the Arab world, where Arab women’s teams are still in low positions on the world football scene due to the lack of support for women’s football by governments and local federations.

In an interview with DW, Suzanne Shalaby, vice president of the Palestinian Football Association, said the issue of women’s soccer in the Arab world relates to “the social and cultural frameworks and traditions in Arab countries as well as things that society considers acceptable or unacceptable for women.”

Morocco’s women lost the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations against South Africa

Suzanne Shalaby is one of the few women to hold senior positions in football associations.

She added during the interview that until a short time “football was seen as a harsh masculine sport and girls were not encouraged to play the game.”

Luck played a role in Ghazlan’s career in the green rectangle because her father, Shebak, is a former international player in the Moroccan national team.

However, this was not the case for her partner in the national team, Rania Senhaji, as her path in the world of the football player was bumpy. In the beginning, her school did not have a special program for girls to play football, which prompted Senhaji to play in the boys’ team.

She concluded her suffering by saying, “My perseverance in the insults against women and my defense of my position within the school team is one of my greatest achievements that I am proud of. Despite the victory I achieved, which confirmed my right to play, the insults never stopped.”

The efforts of Rania (18 years) did not stop inside the green rectangle, but extended outside it, where she works to promote the practice of girls’ football in Casablanca, her hometown. In 2016, she founded the Women’s Football Association in Casablanca to give girls the opportunity to play football.

lack of support

It is worth noting that girls in the Arab world who have football talent may find few opportunities to play the game professionally in light of the lack of investments and little effort in the field of women’s football by the football federations.

In this, Agnes Amundi, a writer for the Her Football Hub, which specializes in women’s football, said that the lack of support from the federations means that “girls do not play the game in the local leagues”. In an interview with DW, she said that although there have been achievements in the past, they have not been built on.

She added, “The Egyptian women’s team qualified in 2016 to the African Championship for the first time since 1998, but with the team’s exit from the tournament, everything stopped and subsequently exited from the FIFA rankings.”

Moroccan women’s achievement

And last July, Morocco gave a boost to the world of women’s football in the Arab world when Morocco hosted the African Nations Cup for women’s football, where the Moroccan team reached the final match against South Africa in a precedent of its kind, as no Arab women’s team reached the exit stages Knockout from the tournament before that.

The captain of the Moroccan national team, Ghizlan Al-Shebbak, shone in the African Nations Cup for Women and was chosen as the best player in the tournament (23/7/2022).

The captain of the Moroccan national team, Ghozlan Al-Chef, shone in the African Nations Cup for Women and was named the best player of the tournament

Despite the loss of the Moroccan women against the South African women, Morocco wrote its name in golden letters, as the participation of the Arab women’s teams remained shy, both in the continents of Asia and Africa.

During the semi-final match against Nigeria, more than 45,000 people gathered at the stadium to cheer the women of Morocco, while more than 50,000 gathered in the final, which indicates that women’s football in Morocco has become of great importance, while King Mohammed VI of Morocco congratulated the members in a telephone call. His country’s women’s team for their impressive performance in the final.

Ghozlan Al-Shabak, who was chosen as the best player in the tournament, said, “I have experienced things that I have not seen before. A stadium full of fans and football lovers. I am living a dream.”

Indications of positive change

Morocco’s women’s achievement has not gone unnoticed in the Arab world, according to Suzanne Shalaby, vice president of the Palestinian Football Association.

She added, “It was a pleasure and a relief. I was heartened to see such enthusiasm and support for a women’s team. We needed to achieve success in one Arab country in order for the rest of the countries to emulate this success and this will help create a friendly environment for women’s football.”

Amundi hopes that Arab countries will follow Morocco’s example in supporting women’s football, adding, “For Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, Morocco is the model. If these countries want to develop women’s football, investment, commitment and sound planning are needed.”

But there seem to be signs of a change in the world of women’s football in the Arab world.

In this context, last year, Saudi Arabia launched the first women’s football league with the participation of 16 teams, while the Saudi women’s team played its first official international match last February.

It did not stop there, but the Saudi Federation announced in August its intention to apply to host the 2026 Asian Women’s Cup, in a move that was not expected in the conservative kingdom a few years ago.

Lamia Bin Bahian, a board member of the Saudi Football Association, said, “We have great ambitions to develop women’s football in Saudi Arabia. The latest achievement was amazing, which means we are truly entering an exciting new era for women’s football.”

Ambition to compete in the World Cup

It seems that Morocco’s ambitions in the field of women’s football are also great, especially after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) entrusted the organization of the 2024 African Nations Cup for Morocco.

However, eyes are turning to the upcoming Women’s World Cup, where Moroccan women will play against the strongest women’s teams in the world, whether from the European continent or from North and South America.

In this context, Amundi said that participation in the World Cup is “the most important stage”, adding that the tournament will represent “the opportunity to see what level the women of Morocco have reached and what needs to be done to keep pace with the best players in the world.”

John Durden / MG

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