History was made earlier this year, as the Saudi Arabia women’s team was awarded a FIFA world ranking for the first time in history. It was announced in the latest round of ranking updates by the governing body, with the Saudi Arabia national side taking a spot in 171st. The news generated much excitement at the best sports betting sites in Saudi Arabia. It was a landmark moment in the female history of the sport within the nation, and vindication that the funding provided to back the team and the hard work from organizers and activists was worth it. The announcement of the world ranking is only the first step for the nation and its goal of pushing women’s football, as they will now be targeting regular appearances at the World Cup over the coming years. However, they will not be participating in the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
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The moment that fans of the national team had been waiting for finally arrived in late January, as the team claimed success in the SAFF Women’s Friendly Tournament. It was also a memorable moment for followers within the nation, as the full tournament was held in Saudi Arabia. The competition lasted for eight days between January 11 and January 19, with four nations from two confederations represented.
Saudi Arabia emerged as champions of the Friendly Tournament, clinching victory with a three-point lead over Pakistan. Undefeated throughout the competition, Saudi Arabia won two of their three matches en route to claiming the title. Their defensive performance was outstanding in the tournament, conceding only one goal. They won their matches against Mauritius and Comoros and were crowned champions after drawing 1-1 against Pakistan in the final round of fixtures.
Time To Grow
Following the historic achievement, the president of the SAFF claimed that he was amazed by the performances that the nation has put in, and claimed that it was an ‘incredible’ achievement. It certainly is, especially when you consider that football within the country by females has only been played since 2019 professionally. Since then, there has been a national team established, as well as the top two divisions of the women’s professional game. Furthermore, there are now more chances than ever for younger players to make steps into the sport, as there are school leagues and an U17 national side.
The governing body has been thrilled with the success achieved, as the nation now has over 50,000 girls signed up to compete at the youth level, and there has been an 800% increase in the number of coaches and clubs available to players within the country. The world ranking is only the first step for the nation, as they will now have their sights set on achieving greater things over the coming years.
What’s The Next Step?
The road to greatness and inspiring the next generation doesn’t end with achieving a FIFA world ranking, as the attention swiftly turns to the future. Saudi Arabia has already made their intentions clear when it comes to the women’s game with what it would like to do next, as the nation has already made an official bid to host the 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Hosting the event would be the first time that a major female tournament has been held in the country, while it would also be the first major international tournament of any description since the 1997 Confederations Cup. The AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 will also take extra significance for Saudi Arabia, as it could present them with their best chance of earning entry to the World Cup. Reaching a World Cup would be the highest acknowledgment of the achievements made with the sport, as they have never previously reached the major event.
Saudi Arabia missed out on qualification for the 2023 World Cup after being ineligible to field a team for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualification tournament. However, that will change following the tournament in Australia this summer.
An Exciting Future Ahead
The future of the women’s game in Saudi Arabia appears to be incredibly bright at this stage. The acknowledgment of a world ranking for the first time in history is just the first step, as there is clearly a desire for the team to improve further given the participation of players from a young age. However, the next step will be to show the world that Saudi Arabia is an emerging nation on the global stage.