Anticipation is building across Jordan in the lead-up to the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, which kicks off in the country on 30 September. As the big date approaches, many locals are relishing the prospect of watching the national side pit their wits against the finest teams from across the globe. All the same, few have any idea of the stern tests the players have had to overcome to represent Jordan at the finals.
"I've loved football since the first time I kicked a ball at the age of six," said Rouzbahan Farij, one of the youngsters honoured to be part of the host nation's squad. "I felt that my future would be fantastic with this sport." Despite that passion, the 16-year-old had to fight hard to win her place, and she is one of several living proofs that football can overcome any obstacle and meet even the most daunting challenges.
Rouzbahan first played the game with the boys in her family at weekends, ruining the plants at her grandfather's house, but she quickly felt a kinship with the sport. "Football inspires me," she said. "It gives me confidence and a determination to face up to any difficulty. Football has changed a lot of things for me. It's allowed me to understand that there are victories and defeats in life. We'll be happy if we win, but if we lose we'll have to work even harder to win at any price."
She has already worked hard to reach this far, and her first battle was to allay her own mother's fears. As her mother explained: "According to tradition and customs, girls aren't encouraged to play football. As a mother, I was afraid my daughter would injure herself or something else might happen. But Rouz was very insistent. She takes care of all the details and she's continued to do well at school, which proved to us that she's responsible. I became convinced this young girl knew what she wanted and now I support her fully in what she does."
"I knew my mother would understand my decision and support me," added Rouzbahan. "I showed her that I deserved her trust and she needn't be afraid of football. I proved to her that girls can also run and kick a ball (laughs). She encourages me, and she takes me to training and comes to watch my games. I want to thank her as well as all the other members of my family for supporting me. I'll always make them proud of me."
My team-mates and I are proud to represent Jordan in this competition. Our goal is to win games and go as far as possible.
They are likely to be prouder than ever in a few days' time as Jordan make their U-17 Women's World Cup debut in the opening match. First up for the hosts are 2016 UEFA European Women's U-17 Championship runners-up Spain, and Rouzbahan and Co are determined to show they merit their place in what promises to be an exciting game.
"We've prepared for this tournament for a long time," she said. "We've played several friendlies against top-quality sides, most recently facing Venezuela and Brazil. The moment of truth has arrived. We want to prove to everyone that Jordanian girls can compete with the best.
"I used to only dream about playing football for a domestic club. With time, my dreams grew bigger and the biggest one of all is about to come true: playing in a World Cup. My team-mates and I are proud to represent Jordan in this competition. Our goal is to win games and go as far as possible."
With the Spain match a measure of how far she has come, Rouzbahan also had a message for her colleagues. "It all started with a simple dream. I was determined to make it come true and now I'm going to take part in a World Cup. Next I hope to turn professional. So, girls, you must never give up on your dreams. You have to keep working to make them come true."
She and her team-mates will now be hoping they can count on support from an entire nation as they test their mettle in the U-17 Women's World Cup, the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Jordan.