FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer spoke at the FIFA Football Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Sarai Bareman told FIFA Member Associations: “You have the power to invest in women’s football”
Q&A session featured two members of the Saudi Arabian women’s football community
Football leaders from FIFA's 211 Member Associations have been encouraged to take inspiration from Morocco, who recently advanced to the first knockout stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ on their debut at the tournament, and invest in women’s football. Speaking at the FIFA Football Summit 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer Sarai Bareman said Morocco’s performance was an example of what could be achieved, even in a short space of time, if women's development was made a priority. Sarai Bareman said it all started when the President of the Moroccan Football Federation (FMF), Fouzi Lekjaa, was inspired by attending the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019™ and he subsequently established a national women’s team, before his country hosted the Women's Africa Cup of Nations in 2022 when their team reached the final for the first time.
"The FIFA Women’s World Cup does so much to also motivate our member associations," she said. "The President of the Moroccan federation was blown away by the full stadium, the experience, the atmosphere, the fans, the interest, and that drove him to go back to his country to invest, to really and specifically invest into women’s football, into creating a pathway. "He set up academies, he employed one of the best coaches in the world to lead, and four years later, they qualified for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 and had an incredible performance on the pitch."
Morocco’s experience was a lesson for other FIFA Member Associations. "It's a message to the decision-makers that are in this room today: you all have the power to invest in women's football, and we saw how quickly Morocco was able to advance, and the number one thing that allowed them to advance that quickly was the tone at the top," she said. "It was the president specifically and deliberately driving forward the prioritisation of women's football, and I'm very fortunate to also have that here at FIFA with our President (Infantino). When you as decision-makers make it a top priority, the flow-on effect for that inside your Federation is immense, and you can't underestimate that."
Women's football has also taken a huge leap forward in Saudi Arabia in the last three years. The women's national team, the Green Falcons, played their first fixtures in early 2022 and more recently Saudi Arabia entered the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking for the first time in March 2023 – a milestone that was celebrated with a dedicated event held at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
Lamia Bahaian, Vice-President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), said there were now four women's national teams, five competitions registered under the SAFF for women, 34 clubs and a schools’ league. Over 50 foreign players were participating in the women's Saudi Premier League which was being broadcast internationally for the first time. As elsewhere, millions of girls and women in Saudi Arabia had been inspired by watching the FIFA Women's World Cup. "They are dreaming too,” added Bahaian, who was joined in the Q&A session by Saudi Arabian national team captain Bayan Sadagah. “They want to be connected with the world through the global stage. They want to be in the [FIFA Women’s] World Cup one day. And as a federation we have a responsibility to make their dreams a reality."