In less than a year and a half's time, a country from West Asia will stage an international women's football tournament for the first time. Following on from New Zealand 2008, Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Azerbaijan 2012 and Costa Rica 2014, the fifth edition of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup will take place in Jordan in September 2016.
This event will help to further the growth of Jordanian football as a whole and the women's game in particular. Stadiums and infrastructure will be built, technical development will be fostered and more fans will be attracted.
Leading up to the competition, it is only natural for observers to wonder about the status of women's football in Jordan. This is why FIFA.com decided to put together this brief overview of the state of play.
Jordan's ladies have impressed on a regional, continental and global stage, including at the Olympic level. Not content to watch from the sidelines, the country's women took their first step towards the pitch at the University of Jordan, which allowed female students to form a university team, train regularly and take part in a newly-created indoor football championship.
An Arabian championship followed, whose competitiveness and strong crowds sowed the seeds for women's football to reach the big stage in Jordan. Numerous existing clubs soon announced that they were opening their doors to female players. On the back of a string of futsal tournaments, the Jordan Football Association decided to set up the country's very first women's national team, recruiting the top futsal talent to establish a U-18 football side.
Jordan's female international footballing pioneers got their competitive bow at the 2005 West Asian Football Federation Women's Championship. There was a great deal of excitement to see how they would get on and they did not disappoint, lifting the regional trophy at the first time of asking.
Interest in the team skyrocketed and they went on to take part in qualifying for the 2006 AFC U-19 Asian Cup, booking their maiden ticket to the tournament. After contesting the Asian Games in Qatar later that year, they retained their crown as the West Asian champions in 2007.
Khader Eid, the current coach of the Jordan women's national team, reminisced on these beginnings: "We were conscious of the difficulties we would encounter to coach these young girls while respecting traditions and getting through to their families. It took a lot of effort, but the team's confidence only grew. The period preparing for official competitions was wonderful and I think that our victories enabled women's football to stand on its own feet in Jordan."
In 2010, the team finally surrendered their title at the West Asian Football Federation Women's Championship, as well as featuring in the Asian Games in Guangzhou. However, the year was also marked by the inaugural Arabia Women's Cup, which was hosted by Bahrain and won in dazzling style by Jordan. The victorious Jordanians subsequently enjoyed the honour of going along to the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™ as non-playing guests.
For former Jordanian national team icon Farah Al Azab, who had to quit football to devote herself to her career in engineering, the memories are still fresh: "We proved what we were capable of from the outset by winning several competitions. We wanted to play at a higher level to gain experience. I remember the victory in the Arabia Cup, which gave us the chance to attend the Women's World Cup. It was a unique experience. At half-time during the match between USA and Colombia they showed some goal highlights and I remember seeing one of mine from qualifying on screen. Words cannot describe how that made me feel."
The milestones keep coming
Women's football has continued to strengthen its foothold in the country, with U-19, U-17 and U-14 national teams all established and talent identification centres opened. Expectations have thus remained high, with further success delivered in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics, when the Jordanian ladies reached the second round of qualifying for the first time. Next up, they broke more new ground by securing a berth at the 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup, where they displayed commendable battling spirit despite being knocked out in the group stage.
Also in 2014, Jordan returned to the winner's circle at the fifth West Asian Women's Championship and took part in their third Asian Games. At the beginning of 2015, they clinched a spot in the second round of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics. This phase kicks off this coming September.
Club scene and professional stars
Following a proliferation of clubs, in 2005 the Jordan Women's Football League was founded. Some nine campaigns have been held since, with the 2014 installment being cancelled owing to a fixture pile-up for the women's national team.
Shabab Al-Ordon have won the women's domestic title seven times, making them far and away the most successful side. Their closest challengers, Amman Club, have tasted glory twice, including in 2015. The number of teams in the league has ranged from four to eight from year to year.
Several Jordanian ladies have signed professional contracts elsewhere on the strength of their international exploits on the Arabian stage. For instance, talented attacker Farah Al Azab, who is quoted above, earned a deal in Lebanon, where she twice captured the title with Al-Shabab Al Arabi. Another example is Stephanie Al-Naber, who packed her bags for Denmark. Lastly, striker Maysa Jbarah and team-mate Shahnaz Jebreen have also had short stints abroad.