Arab nations reap rewards of development of women’s game

  • On Monday the curtain came down on the third-ever Arab Women’s Cup

  • Jordan’s triumph illustrates their remarkable progress in recent years

  • The tournament was an excellent opportunity to prepare for the 2023 Women’s World Cup qualifiers

Women’s football may not be the most popular sport in the Arab world, but it has attracted numerous talented players over the past few years, many of whom shone brightly at the 2021 Arab Women’s Cup in Egypt. The third edition of the regional tournament drew to a close on Monday, with Jordan emerging victorious for the first time. The culmination of the competition coincided with the first anniversary of the launch of the FIFA-run programme that enables associations to procure additional resources and expertise to develop women’s football at a national level. A number of FAs, from all over the world, have benefited from this initiative. Samar Nassar, a member of the Jordan Football Association and president of the tournament’s organising committee, spoke to about the importance of national teams taking part in the event, and how that relates to the development of women’s football. “The celebration of the Arab Women’s Cup provides hope to many female Arab players that the national associations will start to take an interest in the sport again,” she said. “We hope that the tournament will give a further boost to the development of the women’s game, building a solid foundation for Arab national teams. “We’re well aware of the tournament’s positive impact. We can feel the enthusiasm of the players, who view this competition as an important starting point, in terms of turning their hopes and dreams of further improvements to women’s football into a reality.”

Jordan on the rise Since Jordan hosted the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, the female game in the country has come on leaps and bounds, and their memorable win over a strong Tunisia team – featuring several professional players plying their trade in Europe – in the final of the Arab Women’s Cup was a fitting reward for their efforts. The appointment of Portuguese coach David Nascimento earlier this year has also proved key to Jordan’s success. The former Utrecht defender has managed to blend a number of players who had previously starred at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup five years ago with a handful of other experienced heads, led by Maysa Jbarah, who plays professionally in France and who scored the winning goal in the final. A different challenge now awaits Nascimento’s charges: in a couple of weeks’ time, they will kick off their qualifying campaign for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, during which they will lock horns with Iran and Bangladesh in Group G. Boosted by their victory in Egypt, the Jordanians will be hopeful of making their third successive appearance at the continental tournament and achieve their aim of qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ for the first time in their history.

Strong African presence African nations put in robust performances during the tournament, with three teams from the continent reaching the knockout stages. Hosts Egypt and Tunisia advanced from Group A at the expense of Lebanon and Sudan, while Algeria finished above Jordan and Palestine to top Group B. Interestingly, Sudan made their international debut in the tournament opener against Egypt. Despite their three defeats in Group A, the inexperienced Sudanese side nevertheless produced some positive moments to build on for the future. “After the new domestic league had completed two seasons, the decision was made to form a national team following the emergence of some really good players,” said Mervat Hussein, board member of the Sudan Football Association and head of her country’s women’s football committee. “The aim was to be present at regional and global level, and to compete in African, Arab and international tournaments.”

Continuing to grow All of the teams involved in the Arab Women’s Cup used the event as an opportunity to prepare for their upcoming qualifying campaigns for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Egypt and Tunisia’s meeting in the group stage will be repeated in the first round of the qualifiers for the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations, which will distribute four tickets for Australia and New Zealand 2023. In the same round, Algeria will take on Sudan. “This is a good opportunity for us to prepare for the Asian qualifiers in the best possible way,” said Lebanon coach Wael Gharzeddine, whose players have been placed in Group D with Myanmar, United Arab Emirates and Guam, as they set their sights on qualifying for the Women’s Asian Cup for the first time ever. Palestine, meanwhile, also enjoyed a useful run-out in Egypt, and in the India 2022 qualifiers they will face Thailand and Malaysia in Group H. Results Group A Egypt 10-0 Sudan Tunisia 0-0 Lebanon Sudan 1-12 Tunisia Lebanon 0-4 Egypt Egypt 2-2 Tunisia Lebanon 5-1 Sudan Group B Jordan 1-3 Algeria Algeria 4-1 Palestine Palestine 1-4 Jordan Semi-finals Egypt 2-5 Jordan Algeria 2-2 Tunisia (Tunisia won 4-3 on penalties) Final Jordan 1-0 Tunisia