Monika Staab has been dubbed “a pioneer and driving force” of women’s football in her native Germany. The long-time FIFA instructor and former Bahrain coach took over at the helm of Qatar’s women’s national team in February 2013.
In an interview with FIFA.com, Frankfurt born Staab elaborates on her new challenge, the progress made by women’s football in the Arab world, Raul’s key job as a role model and a “groundbreaking” UEFA Women’s EURO in Sweden.
FIFA.com: What was your first impression about women’s football in Qatar?
Monika Staab: Before taking over, I had visited Qatar a few times, including a trip with a FIFA mission in October 2012. Truth be told, I’m impressed by the progress women’s football has made in the country. You can notice the work that pioneers like the President of the Qatar Women's Sport Committee Ahlam Salem Mubarak Al Mana have done in order to further promote women in sports.
Qatar has progressed in social terms and the right messages have been sent out to women. My idea is to make the next step while respecting and adapting to Qatari culture. I have found excellent working conditions here, and I’m convinced that we’ll be able to make a valid contribution within the scope of a five-year development project.
What do you want to achieve during the coming five years?
During my career I have had the opportunity to observe women’s football in 63 countries. If I compare the structures in Qatar with the situation in a great majority of the countries I have visited, I can say that Qatar has an advantage, and we can trigger change in the next five years. For instance, we have a very well organised women’s league that is of great help for the national team. However, we need to ensure everyone understands the benefits that women’s football can bring to society as a whole. The players of our newly established U-14 women’s national team practice every day after school. These girls are becoming important role models in Qatar because they are showing that women’s football can be an integral part of daily life. Also from a competitive point of view, we have made important steps forward: the first-ever international matches of our women’s national team outside Qatar were recently held in Maldives. Even though we lost both games, the experience was priceless. Now our players know what it takes to do well abroad. We can’t wait for our upcoming training camp in Germany.
I believe the World Cup could make a contribution to society as a whole, including women.
Do you think women’s football in Qatar will benefit from the 2022 FIFA World Cup™?
We have had positive talks with Qatar’s Supreme Committee, and they are committed to supporting the setting-up of an academy for women’s football. This is a great sign if you consider that women’s football in Qatar is a rather new discipline that was officially established in 2009. There is still plenty to do, especially in terms of awareness. The 2022 FIFA World Cup represents a great opportunity to show the whole world how things have progressed in Qatar. Women’s football in the Arab world could benefit from the 2022 World Cup.
What does 2022 mean to Qatar?
2022 is a huge project for Qatar. Well, Qatari people have always been very passionate about football, and already now we see how football is having a concrete impact on Qatar’s society. For example, Raul is doing an amazing job as a football ambassador in Qatar. He has not only brought European flair but also a great deal of sportsmanship and fair-play. All in all, Qatar’s Vision 2030 is perhaps the best example of the huge expectations the World Cup has triggered. I believe the World Cup could make a contribution to society as a whole, including women. I’m also convinced women could play an important role in tackling the conflict that potentially looms in the Arab world.
Would it be helpful to have more internationally renowned players to promote women’s football in the Arab world?
Raul is a great role model for men and women alike. It’s impressive to see such a big star working so hard and with such a great sense of humility. Of course, it would be great if female role models like Marta or Lotta Schelin could have the chance to share their experiences with our players as well.
Can we expect to have an Arab country qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the short-term?
It’s impressive the way women’s football has developed in the Arab world since 2006. Jordan are among the top eight in Asia and still have a chance to qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™. They are a good example of how much progress has been made in the past 10 to 15 years. Palestine have a regular women’s national team and they have already played in front of huge crowds. Overall, women’s football is getting stronger and prejudices are disappearing. If the current progress continues, some Arab countries could reach European top level within the next 30 years.
You are now attending the EURO as an observer, what is the key lesson to be learned from the UEFA Women’s EURO?
It’s been a groundbreaking tournament for women’s football. Teams like the Netherlands, Italy and Spain have done a very impressive job you could have never expected them to do ten years ago. Some other countries like Germany, where expectations have always been very high, have started to realise that the margin between teams is getting smaller. For me, as a long-time supporter of women’s football it has been a very remarkable competition with a great host in a fantastic atmosphere.