As of late, advocates for women in sport and human rights organizations would be happy to see change in how Saudi Arabia is working towards encouraging women to do more in the country. More so, if when they are trying to be accepted and have a positive perception by the global community.
However, recent news of how the Saudi Football Federation set the hammer down on the official broadcaster MBC Pro Sports to be mindful of the air-time focused on women supporters at the stadium only triggers the unwillingness of the nation to extinguish its mentality towards women.
MBC Pro Sports was told to tone down its lenses on women during the upcoming Super Cup Finale at Craven Cottage on August 8th between Al Ahli and Al Hilal. The Federation had earlier mentioned of the embarrassment it had felt last year and the subsequent flow of fury witnessed on social media during the season opener between Al Hilal and Al Nassr.
That brings us to our question: if officials at the Saudi Football Federation were embarrassed of scenes of women at the stadium, why was the idea of having the Super Cup Final in European cities (Paris was on the list of cities) entertained? What did they expect? This is less significant than the following question which is how long will it take for the Federation to realize how women are empowering sports?
For some reason, it seems like the Federation is still not convinced at the idea that women have equal rights as men in the field of sports at least, if not else where. While neighboring Gulf nations have recently begun implementing football leagues for women – providing a core platform for the development of the sport among women and subsequently raising the profile of its National teams, Saudi Arabia is the only nation to have withheld any thought of engaging with the idea. Meanwhile, United Arab Emirates have women heading up core responsibilities within the FA. Additionally, the UAE FA has also taken the liberty to focus on the developing the game at the grassroot levels encouraging girls to take a keen interest in the game. This is only solidified by the fact that the FA has set up several international friendlies providing game time for women apart from sending them on frequent international training camps as they continue to progress.
A solution to the problem can only be figured out when the parties involved realize that a problem exists. In the case of the Saudi Football Federation, it is one of their own as other sports entities have begun to realize how women could make their country proud. The Saudi Olympic Committee recently announced that it would be sending four women to the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – an improvement from the two that were sent to London four years ago.
Finally, its time for the Saudi Federation to understand the potential of women within the country, because if it does not, not only would it face isolation externally but also from internal factions as the number of intellects multiplies within the gender within the nation. Women across Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations occupy the highest of ranks across various verticals defining the nation yet on the other end we have the Saudi Football Federation which focuses its efforts on warning a broadcaster from filming women supporters of the game.