Hopes were not all that high prior to Kuwait’s recent qualifying campaign for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2014, and the resounding reverses suffered by the underdogs did nothing for team morale, but their involvement has nevertheless opened up new footballing horizons in the Persian Gulf.
In a region where society remains highly conservative, the Kuwaiti women’s football team had to overcome many obstacles before taking part in their first competitive matches during the 2010 West Asian Football Federation Women's Championship.
At the tournament, held in the UAE, the Kuwaitis suffered two heavy losses at the hands of Palestine (17-0) and the host nation (7-0).
Despite this disappointing start, the Kuwaiti Football Association and the Kuwaiti Women’s Sport Federation were not discouraged. The team was therefore resurrected two years later, playing friendly encounters with Qatar, the Maldives and Nepal.
The Arab nation then participated in the aforementioned Asian Cup qualifiers – through which successful Asian countries can book their place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ – for the first time in their history.
The team’s performance during this preliminary stage, which was staged in Jordan, was unsatisfactory, as they found themselves on the end of three comprehensive defeats by Uzbekistan, Jordan and Lebanon, by scores of 18-0, 21-0 and 12-1 respectively. These results left Kuwait with the worst overall record with 51 goals conceded and one scored.
In spite of these setbacks, national coach Fahd Kamil has been keen to stress that the goal of this venture was to “gain experience and rub shoulders with high-quality opponents. It was natural and predictable for us to lose so heavily, especially against Jordan and Uzbekistan. This first participation will help us to correct our mistakes and evaluate our performances against such strong opposition.”
Focused on the future
This qualifying experience did have one positive statistical effect, propelling the Kuwaitis up the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking to 114th worldwide and 31st within Asia, their highest placing since making their first appearance in the table in 2012.
After these matches, however, the women’s side was dissolved following a decision by the Kuwaiti Technical Committee, which, with an eye on the future, is keen for the sole emphasis to be placed on the U-14 team.
In Kamil’s opinion, “the absence of a women’s league in Kuwait explains the huge gaps. On top of that, the majority of players joined the team at a late age.”
The 42-year-old added: “There needs to be more interest in the women’s side; we need to establish a proper league and youth teams. Our girls require moral and financial support, as well as our trust, in order to take part in major tournaments.”
Representatives from the AFC, responsible for development of the women’s game, recently paid a visit to Kuwait and provided football authorities there with a strategic plan and schedule covering the next five years.
Sheikha Nayma Al Ahmed, Chairwoman of the Kuwaiti Olympic Delegation’s Women’s Sport Committee, stated that “the Kuwaiti Women’s Football Committee has done everything in its power to lay solid foundations for the national team, by concentrating on young girls and thereby constructing a competitive team in the years to come.”
While the 2014 Asian Cup qualifying results were discouraging, they may well represent a first step towards building future success for women’s football in Kuwait.