As in many Arab countries, women’s football in Jordan is still in its infancy. The small Middle Eastern nation has nonetheless made important strides in the discipline of late, with impressive results recorded in west Asia and across the Arab world. Those displays have helped Jordan become the highest placed Arab team in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking.
The side’s improved international standing owes much to a talented core of players who have defended Jordan’s colours with panache, while behind the scenes the Jordanian Football Association and its President, Ali Bin Al-Hussein, have laid down perfect conditions for the growth of the women’s game.
The most sparkling talent among the current crop is also the captain, Stephanie Nabr, standing out as the jewel of women’s football in Jordan. The 23-year-old spoke to FIFA.com about her upcoming schedule, her passion for the game, how she became a professional footballer in Denmark and her ambitions.
FIFA.com: Could you tell us a little about your recent experiences of the professional game in Europe?
Stephanie Nabr: The dream of every footballer is to improve as a player and get the chance to play as a professional in one of the best leagues in the world. I was lucky enough to join Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark after they spotted me during tournaments in the United Arab Emirates. I decided to seize that opportunity and find out about top-level professional football. It was a really interesting experience, even though it was difficult at first. I had trouble adapting to being so far away and I missed both my family and my country. But I learnt a lot about the life of a professional footballer, on and off the pitch. The Danish league is exciting and I was also lucky enough to play in the Champions League. To play in the most prestigious continental club competition and come up against the best players in the world was a dream come true.
Do you hope to continue in the professional game in the years to come?
Of course. I had to leave Denmark because I had important games to play with the national team. I wanted to stay in permanent contact with the national team this summer, but I want to continue my professional career. I have the choice of returning to Denmark or taking the offer that Duisburg have made me. It seems their coaching staff saw me during a training session in Germany. If the offer is still there, I’ll sign because I want to play in the best championship in the world. The German national team have been superb in the last few World Cups.
You have been impressive with your own national team. Describe the state of women’s football in Jordan.
It’s a very recent thing, so naturally we’re lagging behind a bit. But the national association and the clubs have taken huge steps. We’ve been able to count on tremendous support from the President of the national association, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein. It was he who persuaded the association to take more interest in women’s football, which is what motivated the clubs and got them to organise several different tournaments. That’s how we made the switch from indoor football to playing on full-sized pitches. The national team have benefited from those developments and fulfilled all the hopes placed in us. We’ve been racking up wins since 2005 and today we’re the highest placed Arab team in the World Ranking. Lots of people are counting on us to qualify for the Women’s Asian Cup.
If you do qualify, it would of course be the first time Jordan have ever reached the most prestigious tournament in the region.
We deserved to qualify in our last two qualifying campaigns, but we didn’t have enough time to bridge the gap between ourselves and the other Asian teams. We put in a huge effort but we just lacked a certain something. We don’t have enough experience at the continental level. We’re not used to taking on teams like Korea [Republic], Japan and China. The sides that qualified ahead of us have been through it all before, but I think our turn has come to reach the finals this time. We’ve now got the skills we need thanks to more intricate training sessions, more friendly matches and competitions in west Asia and among Arab nations. We’ll do everything we can to succeed on the continental stage.
What have been some of the most unforgettable moments of your career so far?
The greatest was undoubtedly the winning goal I scored for the national team against Iran during the second edition of the West Asian Championship in Amman in 2007. I scored the goal that made it 2-1 and made us champions for the second time in succession. There was also the time the President of the national association, His Highness Prince Ali, telephoned me when he found out I was going to play professional football in Denmark. He congratulated me and encouraged me to make the most of the experience. As for the most difficult moment, I think it was our loss to Myanmar in our first qualification campaign for the Asian Cup. We were better than our opponents and we’d already beaten them.
How did you first get into the game?
Like everyone else, I started in the school playground. I loved to kick the ball. After that, I took part in some local tournaments with my school. Then I joined Orthodox Club in Amman in 2002, and after 2005 I played for Shabab Al-Ordon. Next I became a professional in Denmark and I intend to continue that experience. Football is a passion that stays with you forever.
What have been your greatest achievement?
Winning the very first edition of the Jordanian chammpionship with Shabab Al-Ordon. As for the national team, we won the West Asian Championship on two occasions. In addition, I took part in the Asian Cup with the Under-21 side. I also won bronze during the Asian Indoor Games in Thailand; silver in the West Asian Futsal Championship; silver at the Asian Indoor Games; another silver at the third edition of the West Asian Championship; the Black Iris prize as best female athlete in team sports in 2008 and 2009; and the title of top scorer in the women’s league three years in a row.