Technology and women’s football central to Saudi Arabia visit

A FIFA delegation, led by Secretary General Fatma Samoura, met with football stakeholders and influential figures in Saudi Arabian society in Riyadh earlier this week.

The FIFA Secretary General took part in a panel discussion on the future of football and how the sport drives social impact as part of the first day of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum themed ‘Investing in Humanity’. Moderated by Richard Attias, Chief Executive Officer of FII, the FIFA Secretary General spoke alongside Saudi Arabian Vice Minister of Sport Bader Alkadi on the role of football in advancing society, and the role of technology in the modern game.

”We live in an evolving and ever-changing world and football, like many other industries has embraced the outstanding opportunities offered by technology to make the game better for players and fans" said Samoura. "On the pitch, data-driven supportive tools are now used to assist the decision making process of referees, coaches, match analysts and medical staff. Additionally, VAR technology has revolutionized football as it allows referees to make an informed decision regarding an incident during a match and provides match officials a second chance to look at a passage of play before deciding on the appropriate course of action.” During talks at the Saudi Arabian Football (SAFF) Federation HQ with SAFF Vice President Khalid Althebity and the Head of Women’s Football Ms. Lamia Bahaian, the FIFA Secretary General complimented the SAFF leadership and the Saudi authorities for the special attention and outstanding financial support given to girls and women’s football. The FIFA delegation then visited Princess Nourah University, the largest university in the world for women, which allowed the opportunity to meet with the Saudi Arabian women’s national team and Coach, Monika Staab, to hear her thoughts on Saudi women’s football’s impressive progression in recent months.

A tour of the facilities allowed the delegation to meet with some of the university’s students and learn more about academic life on the campus. The delegation then met with the University’s Rector H.E Dr Einas Aleisa where discussions focused on female education and the positive effects educating young girls can have on greater society.

An official meeting with Saudi Arabian Vice Minister of Sport Bader Alkadi then took place at Mahd Sport Academy. Talks covered an overview of Saudi Arabia’s sports strategy which focuses on four pillars: mass participation, identifying talents, elite performance enhancement and diversity and inclusion. 

The delegation then toured the Mahd Sports Academy to learn more about its goal of creating a golden generation of Saudi Arabian champions on a continental and international level, in a variety of sports including football. Before leaving the Mahd Sports Academy, the FIFA Secretary General met with young female footballers on the pitch and heard what the game means to them.

Meetings in Saudi Arabia concluded with some of Saudi Arabia’s leading female voices in sport including Deputy Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Minister of Civil Service Hind Al-Zahid, Director of the General Administration of Sports Clubs Affairs at the Ministry of Sports Ibtihal Alsayir, SAFF’s Head of Women’s Football Lamia Bahaian, Managing Director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation Shaima Saleh Alhusseini, Board Member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation and Member of the FIA Aseel Al-Hamad.

Speaking at the conclusion of the visit the FIFA Secretary General said: “Saudi Arabia has made outstanding progress in not only supporting its women in sports, but in pushing them to excel in football. I am impressed and delighted by the excellent work of the SAFF, and I commend Lamia Bahaian, the SAFF’s Head of Women’s Football, and her team for their passion and commitment to elevate the female game here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”