Pioneering Janoud breaking down barriers

  • Maha Janoud a key figure in developing women’s football in West Asia

  • First female coach of a senior men’s team in the region

  • Set plans in place to grow women’s football in Oman

A groundbreaking pioneer, women’s football missionary and armed with a CV as impressive as any, Maha Janoud’s varied list of achievements on and off the field read like a summation of a career farewell speech. But the Syrian’s passion for the game means her job has barely begun.

A national team representative for six years, holder of numerous coaching badges and a valued member of the AFC Women’s Football Committee are just a few elements of her story. Janoud now has grand plans in her still-new position as Head of Women’s Football at the Oman Football Association.

If anyone is adept at dealing with cultural barriers, it is certainly Janoud. In 2018, she was named coach of Damascus-based Syrian League 1st Division club Al-Muhafaza, reportedly the first time a women had coached a men’s team in West Asia.

“I did not face any difficulties and challenges in training the men’s team,” Janoud told “It was a great experience that was rich in achievements and provided great results and outcomes. The Al-Muhafaza Club were very supportive and has empowered their players, coaches and staff especially in football.

“I consider my experience with coaching the men’s team a great success. As for the society in general, they were very supportive. Of course we have a few negative critics, but the majority were accepting in a very positive manner.”

Women’s football development plans in Oman

  • Focus on producing level C coaches all over Oman

  • Academies to be activated for girls football (U-12)

  • Activate football in schools for U14-U16 and create nationwide tournaments

  • Develop a scouting team to identify and develop talent

  • Create development centres across Oman to support women’s football

  • Aim for having U-15, U-16, U-21 and senior teams within five years

  • School teachers to be coached and evaluated every three months, with support provided where needed

  • National team plans dependent on the talent discovered once the school tournament is activated

  • Develop coaches, referees, players, physiotherapist etc

Changing attitudes and clearing barriers

Janoud describes her early experiences in football as “very difficult” due to the lack of opportunities and infrastructure for women’s football in her homeland. But change is afoot across the region as evidenced by the landmark hosting of the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.

She believes that cultural attitudes to women’s football are shifting throughout West Asia. “The change is there and very noticeable,” she said. “The number of female football players and clubs are growing significantly.

“There is also a clear increase in coaches and referees and this positively shows the growth and change of the mentality and society. I believe in a few years women’s football in West Asia will evolve even more.

“The scope is open and subject to rapid evolvement. All it needs is organisation, guidance and sponsoring the rising talent, especially that it’s on such a significant increase.

“West Asia and Arab countries generally need a complete and integrated plan that can be implemented within the available resources. Within a few years, it won’t be surprising to notice a quick and huge change in a positively manner towards women’s football.”

Maha Janoud, Syria assistant coach, 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers