You have to see what’s going on in Saudi Arabia to be believed


November 6, 2021

  • Monika Staab creates Saudi Arabian women’s national team

  • 62-year-old pioneer has worked in 85 countries over the past 14 years

  • “I give them the spark – it’s up to them to light the fire”

Some 6,430 kilometers separate Gambia and Saudi Arabia, the distance between Monika Staab’s last two assignments. Since the end of 2018, she was in charge of the “German Gambian Football Project”, until the arrival of COVID-19 and with it, a new challenge… “In November of last year, my phone rang and I saw it was a 996 and had no idea who it was, ”Staab said in an interview with I was like, ‘Come on, what have you got to lose?’ And then the person said, “It’s the Saudi Football Association. We would like to invite you to our first C license training course for women. ‘ I thought, ‘Sorry, what? Saudi Arabia?’ I thought nothing could ever surprise me and then it happened. They asked me if I could give the coaching course in December and I said, ‘Count on me!’ “Staab is an experienced coach who has worked in no less than 85 countries to date, and she doesn ‘never lost sight of her main goal. “In the 51 years that I have been involved in women’s football, the main thing for me has always been to give women the opportunity to play football. I may not be able to change everything in people’s lives, but I can give them hope. I give them the spark – it’s up to them to light the fire, ”she said. Despite her decades of traveling the world, Saudi women’s level of commitment and enthusiasm for football surprised the 62-year-old trailblazer. “I got here and was told we would start at six in the morning. Having people fit and ready to go at 6 in the morning is something I had never known, and yet at six. o’clock in the morning 24 women arrived and wanted to start training, “she explains.” I thought to myself, ‘This can’t happen.’ I looked at the women and they were all full of enthusiasm, passion and spirit. They then spent the next 14 days doing the C License Course with me, and every day they were there at six o’clock sharp. ” “I have been to 25 clubs in Dammam, Riyadh and Jedda. They all have over 40 players, some of whom have to drive over two hours to train. It reminded me of when you wanted to play football but you didn’t. don’t have a club nearby. They drive two hours to practice, then come back two hours later. All these women work or study, and none of them do ‘gets paid for it. They just have a real passion for it and are all convinced that they are going to be able to make their dreams come true. ” FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura also saw this commitment with her own eyes when she met football players and influential figures from Saudi society in Riyadh.

Another milestone in the history of women’s football came on November 2, when Staab hosted the first training session with the national team. 700 players signed up to play for their country, and all took part in trials and had their skills assessed, Staab then reduced the number to a squad of 30. “In mid-February 2022 we want to play our first international match in Maldives. Why Maldives? Well I had my first international match there with Bahrain and we won 7-2. And then I had my first international match there with Qatar and we won 2-1. So I thought, ‘I’m going to look for number three on my retirement tour, “Staab says with a smile.” What’s going on here has to be seen to be believed, “adds she said. “It’s amazing, really. These women have a sense of freedom in that they can finally express their love for the sport. Ten years from now they want to play the Women’s World Cup, and I have them. I said, “Slow down! It took Germany 21 years and you want to do it in ten? It’s not going to happen.” But they have a dream and they have the support of the president and general manager of the national football association, so what more could you ask for? ”

Playing a role in this social change is something very important for Staab, from Dietzenbach near Frankfurt. In addition to taking care of the national team, his duties include training other coaches. “In the past eight weeks, I’ve run two C license courses,” she says. “Then, in December, I organize the first B license course with the 24 women I had last year. “We want to create a total of 13 regional training centers for U-13, U-15 and U-17 players – the first one is almost finished – and by the end of next year we are looking to have A female U. 17 national team. We’re on the right track here. We know you have to build on a solid foundation. We have seven, eight and nine year olds in this girls-only academy. They have a background. twice a week, and the parents even want them to train three times. Here people are ready to invest in the future. I have spoken to a lot of parents and they are all very open to the idea . In Germany, it was around 2003, when the first parents started saying that their daughters did not have to do ballet and that they were allowed to play football. Why? Because we had won the The next step will be the launch of a league championship on November 18 that will be played in three cities. will be uncharted territory for the players and another challenge for Staab, who coached the women’s national team in Bahrain in 2007 and then held the same position in Qatar from 2013 until the end of 2014. “Last year there was a Community tournament but only on a 9-a-side pitch. They haven’t played on an 11-a-side yet, so everything we do right now is writing a new chapter in the history of the sport here. We’re pretty much starting from scratch, and we have to teach the players everything. It’s an adventure but it’s fun and I enjoy it, ”Staab says with a smile, before making sure she expresses her gratitude to a few very important characters. “I met two very powerful women in Lamia Bahaian (Head of the Women’s Football Department) and Adwa Al-Arifi (Deputy Minister of Planning and Development at the Ministry of Sports), and it is thanks to them that I am here now. Their passion, commitment and dreams are what won me over, and I want to do what I can to help them. With the experience I have gained in women’s football and in particular in its development, I think I will be in a good position to do so. “

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