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Women's Football In Saudi Arabia || "I Want To Empower Women" | An Interview With German Soccer Coach Monika Staab

A good 20 years ago, Monika Staab, 62, made 1. FFC Frankfurt one of the best teams in the world. Among other things, she won four championships and the Uefa Cup. In 2007 Staab went into women's football development aid. She has worked in China, North Korea, Qatar and Iran, among others. Since September 1st, she has been the first coach of the Saudi Arabia women's national team. Here she tells how she would like to build this team.

Ms. Staab, since September 1st you have been building the first women's national team in Saudi Arabia . How do you do that?

I go to all the clubs and associations to take stock of the women's teams, currently in Riyadh, soon in other cities. I want to know what the trainers do: How and where do they train, how are they equipped. There are eight women's clubs in Riyadh, each with 20 to 30 players. It's unbelievable how many are already there.

But a national women's league has only existed since 2020. What structures can you fall back on?

Women's football has existed in Saudi Arabia since 2006. The women have organized their own tournaments, for example in the school playground. They are now allowed to do more in Saudi Arabia: driving, traveling without a male companion, doing sports in schools. And at the beginning of last year, the association included women's football in its strategy. He is now being seriously promoted.

What makes you confident that the association is serious?

There is now a women's football department in which women have held key positions, such as that of director. The association has hired 35 women. You want to advance women's football, as the conversations with those responsible have shown me. It's not about getting a result tomorrow, it's about building it up over the long term. The team should not only play a few friendship kicks, but also take part in competitions.

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Has the association given you any goals?

You have your goals, but we have to be realistic. In the association they already know that they first have to build up something. In women's football, the USA is on the 15th floor and Saudi Arabia is on the ground floor. My goal is to have my first international match next year.

What is the level like?

I would say that some players could keep up well in the major or regional leagues. I was there in December 2020 to train female trainers. I was able to get an impression of that. There is a lot of potential, very talented eleven and twelve year olds that we want to promote. Many have been playing with a great passion for years. Your dream is to finally play on the big field.

So far, the league games have been played on a field of nine.

It's easier to get a place this way. The clubs must allow women to play on the big field. Some do, some don't. We want the league to be played on the penalty field soon.

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Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that regularly violates human rights. Aren't you afraid of being used to make the country look better?

I don't have the feeling that I'm being used. I met the sports minister. We exchanged well. I'm not here to be just a figurehead. My aim is to advance women and girls, to get them onto the Fifa world rankings. This is my mission here. The women need someone from the outside because they have no experience and few well-trained trainers.

Do you meet a lot of people who are not so open about women's football?

Of course there are these people, but I haven't spoken to anyone who thinks that way. The soccer players also know that they have to take things slowly in order to take everyone away. I recently went to the supermarket and people recognized me there. " You are the national coach, " said one man. In Germany that only happened to me now and then in Frankfurt.

Does women's football contribute to equality?

Absolutely. That's my philosophy, I want to instill more self-esteem in the women I work with. It is therefore all the more important to give women a perspective. Much remains to be done in this regard. Maybe then one day a woman will become president. Football is a tool in many ways.

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Many view the involvement of German trainers in non-democratic countries with skepticism.

There are good reasons for the skepticism. I've been to Qatar, North Korea and Iran - politically, of course, I can't identify with these countries, but that's not my point. I want to empower women. In Germany, too, we had to fight for recognition of women's football for a long time. The fighting continues in other countries.

You trained for a long time with 1. FFC Frankfurt, at that time one of the world's best teams. They have been providing development aid since 2007. Why do you get involved again and again?

The appreciation I get is worth more than a trophy. The girls in North Korea accompanied me until I got on the plane. They can't live the way they want and then you come and teach them something that they normally wouldn't get. It's like winning the lottery for them. I feel for myself what can be achieved.

The DFB allowed women's football in 1970. You were eleven years old. Do you think back to your beginnings a lot?

In the past 14 years I've trained girls and women in 80 countries, and every time it's a déjà vu. Women's football was still developing in these countries in Africa and Asia, and there was a lot to be done. Saudi Arabia is one of the many countries that are just getting started.

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