Jordan builds on World Cup legacy with inaugural Women’s Pro-League

Shabab Al Ordon players celebrate winning Jordan Women Professionals League 2019 title
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  • Seven clubs took part in Jordan’s first Women’s Pro-League season
  • Fourteen teams also participated in the inaugural Women’s Jordan Cup
  • Total of 89 matches played over several months

The legacy of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016 continues to live on nearly three years later, with the country’s football association, the JFA, having just held its inaugural Women’s Pro-League.

“It’s something I’ve always longed for,” said Stephanie Al Naber, a Jordanian football icon and the captain of the women’s national team. “I’ve been dreaming of a full women’s football season in Jordan ever since I started playing in 2005.”

Over the past 15 years Al Naber, who is also a JFA executive board member, has played in every regional tournament and at two AFC Women’s Asian Cups. She was also the first Jordanian woman to play professionally in Europe.

“Since we won the bid to host the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, we’ve made every effort to build on the legacy of that tournament,” she said. “And we have built on it. More and more girls want to play football now and the local community is encouraging women to play. It’s not unusual to see girls on football pitches anymore.”

The JFA’s women’s department has also organised the first league championship for women professionals. Seven clubs took part in the two-stage Pro-League, with 42 games being played. Shabab Al-Ordon and Amman SC finished joint top on points, with Shabab winning the resulting play-off 1-0.

Big ambitions

Shabab are coached by former international Manar Fraij, one of a few female coaches who have been making their way in the game since 2010. Having obtained her Pro coaching licence in 2016, Fraij is anxious for Jordanian women to play on the global stage.

“In recent years there have been lots of obstacles, but I believe hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2016 and then the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup marked a renaissance for the game,” she explained. “A lot of girls wanted to join football clubs, and this first season provides us with a strong foundation for women’s football in the future. We must believe that we are capable of taking part in international competitions.”

She added: “I started coaching Shabab Al-Ordon women’s team after the first half of the season. I knew the club and their outstanding players were better than their league position at the time (third). We worked on technical, physical and even psychological aspects and I told the players that I would tell the press we’d definitely win the title. I wanted to motivate them even more. It worked and we did go on and win the title.”

Shabab Al Ordon head coach Manar Freij celebrates

New competitions

The Pro-League was preceded by a preliminary tournament in which seven clubs played a total of 21 games. And the success story continued with the organisation of the first Women’s Jordan Cup, in which all 14 of the country’s women’s clubs participated. The 25-game competition again ended with Shabab Al-Ordon beating Amman SC 1-0 and winning the trophy.

“The team has developed and started playing attacking football, and the huge amount of work we’ve put in over the past few months is only going to bring us success,” said the ambitious coach. “After winning the Pro-League we had to win the cup, and we did.”

Fraij added: “A few days after the end of the season, we were invited to take part in the first West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Women Clubs Championship, along with some strong teams from Lebanon, the UAE, Bahrain, and Palestine. We performed really well again, won all the games we played and emerged as champions. It was great to win three titles in a month.”

Wider horizons

Shabab Al-Ordon captain and Jordan international Shorooq Al-Shadhli agreed with her club coach: “We knew that our league position at the end of the first stage was well short of what we were aiming for, so we decided to step things up and embrace the pressure.

"We worked hard and came back strong in the second stage. I’m happy with what we achieved in the end. We’re proud of winning the Pro-League, the cup and the WAFF title and it pushes us to achieve more.”

Discussing the benefits of the Pro-League, she said: “Allowing foreign professionals to come in has made the competition even better and helped us gain more experience. Holding the tournament over six months and doubling the number of games also helped us develop our skills.”

Having the final word, coach Fraij said: “I keep up to date with the women’s game and all the developments. I watched most of the World Cup in France last summer and I liked many of the tactics implemented by the coaches there.

"I also heard FIFA President Gianni Infantino talking about his plan to organise some new tournaments for women, including a Club World Cup. We would be honoured to represent west Asia and it would be a great incentive for us to achieve even more.”

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