The FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Jordan 2016 will be the biggest sporting event in the country's history. Yet to host a major international tournament, the kingdom in the Middle East nonetheless served as the venue for the Arab Games in 1999, which led to the construction of several stadiums and arenas.
Sport is hugely popular in Jordan and football incites passions like no other discipline, with tickets always hard to come by when the national team are in action. Whether the occasion is a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier, an AFC Asian Cup encounter, or even a local club match, the country's fans make their presence felt in large numbers – meaning that stadiums ought to be buzzing when the finest young talents in the women's game gather to chase global glory.
Jordan: general characteristics
Officially entitled the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the country first came into being as the Emirate of TransJordan in 1923, before independence followed on 25 May 1946. An Arab nation located in west Asia, Jordan lies south of Syria and north of the Arabian Peninsula, which places it right in the heart of the Middle East. Its name derives from the river Jordan flowing along its eastern border, Jor and Dan being its two principal sources.
The topography of Jordan, which has a population of 6.7 million, is extremely varied. Spread out over 89,213 square kilometres, it is a part of the world that is also rich in history and features artefacts from several ancient civilisations, having been the site of some of the very first human settlements. Due to its position at the crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe, Jordan has always been strategically important down the years.
The country's climate is Mediterranean in the north and west, and arid in the south and east, with an average temperature between 12C and 15C. As a result, conditions ought to be ideal during the tournament, making it possible to organise a number of activities in addition to the games themselves.
Jordan's economy is primarily service-based, with strong commercial and tourism sectors, although it also has several industries and is a notable producer of fertilisers and medicine. The south is reputed for its phosphate mines, and Jordan boasts the third largest phosphate reserves in the world, while it is likewise blessed in potassium, mineral salts, natural gas and limestone.
In terms of demographics, 78 per cent of the population live in urban areas, and 35 per cent are aged under 14. Jordan can also lay claim to one of the highest levels of education in the region.
In general, the economy is among the most free-market and competitive in the Middle East. Its banking sector is particularly modern and has proved popular with investors, with the country having coped well with the financial crisis in 2009.
One of the central pillars of the Jordanian economy, tourism brings the nation around $3bn a year. Highlights include the archaeological city of Petra, recently chosen as one of the 'new seven wonders of the world'. Visitors can also bathe in the sacred waters of the river Jordan or the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, while the country is replete with mosques and old churches.
Other places of interest include the ancient city of Jerash in the north and the Roman theatre in the beautiful centre of the capital, Amman, not to mention the spectacular, vibrant landscape of Wadi Rum and its rugged terrain resembling the surface of the moon. Lastly, the coastal town of Aqaba is the perfect place to go for a winter holiday by the Red Sea.
Despite a relative shortage of resources, Jordan places a high priority on youth and sport compared to many Arab nations, with the country's large number of sports complexes bearing witness to that commitment. Due to the level of interest, Jordan has enjoyed success in both football and basketball, two of the sports that are most popular with young people. There is significant fan fervour for martial arts as well, and Jordan counts several world champions in this field.
The sports complexes were mostly built in the 1960s, and the King Hussein Sports City is the oldest in the Arab world. It contains a number of stadiums and arenas, including the Amman International Stadium, which will hold matches during the tournament. As interest in sport spread throughout Jordan, more and sports cities began to be built, and thus Irbid and Zarqa will also have the honour of hosting U-17 Women's World Cup games.
Put simply, football is the most popular sport in Jordan across all age groups. The national team made their competitive debut during the qualifying process for Mexico 1986, and they fell at the very last hurdle ahead of Brazil 2014 – losing to Uruguay in the intercontinental play-off. At continental level, Al-Nashama have qualified for the Asian Cup on three occasions, reaching the quarter-finals in 2004 and 2011 before suffering their first ever group stage exit in 2015.
Jordan have appeared in just one FIFA tournament to date: the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, where they put in strong performances despite being drawn in a tough section featuring Spain, Uruguay and Zambia.
Women's football was officially launched in Jordan in 2004, when the national team was first put together. With a core of players developing alongside each other, the side gradually acquired enough experience to enter FIFA Women's World Cup™ and Olympic qualifying, as well as the Asian Games. The growth of the women's game then led to the creation of U-19, U-17 and U-14 teams, in addition to the opening of scouting centres for six to 14-year-olds.