Liste des Weltverbands: Al-Asmari aus Saudi-Arabien neue FIFA-Schiedsrichterin
It’s a first: Anoud Al-Asmari is now a FIFA referee, the first woman from Saudi Arabia to make the list. She is now allowed to officiate men’s games, at least in theory.
The world football association FIFA has appointed Anoud Al-Asmari, 34, from Saudi Arabia as international referee. This emerges from a document that the world association published on its homepage on Wednesday (January 4th, 2022). It’s a beautiful story, of course – and yet it’s one to look at closely.
Al-Asmari told AFP that she was delighted to “be the first Saudi female referee in the history of Saudi sport to receive the international badge.” Theoretically, she could now referee international men’s games, but Al-Asmari said she would only think about it once the Saudi federation approved it.
Saudi Arabia has a particularly conservative reading of Islam that restricts women’s rights and still does so despite isolated social reforms. Just two examples: women have only been allowed to get a driver’s license since 2018, and they were also forbidden from playing football for a long time.
For a few months now, there has been a women’s Premier League in Saudi Arabia, according to FIFA it is the country’s first national women’s league. They also have a national team there, coached by Monika Staab, 63, a German. She gave an interview to the sports show in 2021. She said: “It was a thorn in my side that Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women’s football could not be played officially.”
Saudi Arabia is criticized – and relies on sports washing
So women are now allowed to play football in Saudi Arabia, and yet there is much to criticize about the conditions in the country. For example, Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its lack of or limited human rights and involvement in armed conflicts. Opponents of the government are being persecuted with all severity. Freedom of expression and assembly are severely restricted, homosexuality is strictly forbidden.
The US secret services also hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of the government, in Istanbul.
Against this background, critics accuse the political leadership of using sport to polish their own image and distract from abuses, keyword: sportswashing. Formula 1 races, boxing world championships, its own golf series, the takeover of the Premier League club Newcastle United – for years Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as the organizer of major sporting events and is expanding its influence on the international sports scene.
Stories like that of “CR7” need Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has also applied to host the Asian Cup for women in 2026, for the men’s competition in 2027 there is only one interested party to host it, of course it is Saudi Arabia. They would also like to host the men’s World Cup there in 2030 together with Egypt and Greece.
These are projects for which they also depend on good stories in Saudi Arabia. On those that are about names and not about human rights. So when Cristiano Ronaldo was recently unveiled as a new signing at club Al-Nassr, it was a good story for Saudi Arabia.
Of course, Ronaldo, 37, is no longer a player with sporting potential, but he’s still Ronaldo. He’s even allowed to talk about the advantages of his new employer and then locate it for a moment in South Africa and not in Saudi Arabia. The main thing is that he’s there, scores, cheers and does a bit of advertising.
Staab’s bitter memories of Qatar
Incidentally, Saudi Arabia is not the first stop in the Arab world for coach Monika Staab. She started in Bahrain in 2007, later she was also responsible for Qatar’s footballers. FIFA had tied the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to specifications, including the development of women’s football. No problem for Qatar, of course.
So Staab built a national team, then she had to leave, that was in 2014. Qatar’s women’s national team hasn’t played an official game since then.
It is to be wished for the referee Anoud Al-Asmari and the soccer players of Saudi Arabia that there is no parallelism of the events. That Saudi Arabia isn’t just trying to focus on women’s football as long as it’s fighting for the 2030 World Cup. That would really be a good story.
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