Women's Football Continues to Develop in Qatar...
Evolution Soccer vs. Al Sadd Sports Club
This is the start of a new era for female footballers in Qatar!” declared Paul Bennion, Head of the Evolution Soccer Girls Only programme.
“Evolution Soccer's female players deserve to play on a level playing field and I’m delighted we’ve been able to develop not only a full-time programme for our girl's but a competitive games programme as well."
“There’s been a lightbulb moment in women’s sport in Qatar over the last few years and we have been trailblazers on that front,” Bennion added.
“The fact we are celebrating our 10th season at Evo is a great feather in our club's cap, and it feels even sweeter now that we have a fully established girls programme on offer to run alongside our regular Development and Academy programmes.
New era for female footballers in Qatar
The Evolution Soccer - Girls Only Soccer programme aims to provide opportunities for females aged 8 and over to take part in the sport in a relaxed but professional setting, where coaches deliver innovative sessions which emphasise the fun, social elements of the sport as well as activities that use football as way to keep fit. For participants who want to progress in the game Evolution Sports have created several pathways to provide long term participation opportunities.
- To increase the number of women and girls playing football on a regular basis.
- To increase the opportunities for women and girls to develop skills and confidence.
The programme achieves this by providing a fun and relaxed environment, allowing participants to progress at their own pace and make friends at the same time. The programme offers several events throughout the year, providing young girls the opportunity to represent the club at festivals and tournaments and meet new people.
“We want to keep the momentum going for our girl's, and ducktail into what our core development groups are doing as well.
“Because of the added competition that’s out there we need to stay competitive for young women to play the game. We don’t want to stay where we are, we realise we have to continue to grow the opportunities for female football here at Evo.”
Evolution Sports Director of Soccer, David Wallace says the introduction of a full-time girls only programme is a significant moment for Evolution Sports and for women's sport in Qatar.
“Having worked alongside Paul through this process, it has reinforced our view that these girls are central to the future and to the fabric of women's football at our club and in Qatar,” he said.
Al Kass TV covered the recent game between Evo and Al Sadd Sports Club, meeting the players and talking with them about their football experience and the general challenges facing women’s football in Qatar.
“I began playing football at Evo in 2011, when i was just 3 years old” recalled Nadine Rizk, the only female player to ever represent the Evolution Soccer Academy “I also played with my school team and in regional tournaments, before being selected for the under 8 Academy at Evo. It’s not been an easy path to take, because our society thinks that football is only reserved for boys, but I really enjoyed competing with them and showing them that girls can play too.”
Bailey Ricker, a student at ASD, is another participant who views football as part of her daily life and who hopes to one day turn professional. In her opinion, the resources required to create strong club teams and improve the national women’s team are available, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome. “Parents often refuse to let their daughters train and travel regularly. Because people come and go in Qatar, a players’ sudden departure can have a really negative impact on team unity,” she explained.
Isabel Golby, has gradually attempting to established herself in the side as a goalkeeper, pointed out that the development of tgirls football as a full time programme provided an excellent opportunity to stay fit and meet new friends.
All three players were in agreement about the possibility of forming more competitive women’s clubs in Qatar, pointing to the country’s successful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup as the catalyst for change, and were hopeful that the global event can give women’s football a welcome boost and even change the way in which it is viewed by Qatari society.
Returning to the wider picture, Bennion added that, in his view, the hard work has already been done and that each club in Qatar should now focus on introducing and / or enhancing the level of its women’s teams.
Laura Scully, one of Evo's female coaches and a qulaified referee, thinks that the encouraging changes that are occurring generally within the Middle Eastern nation are having a favourable impact on women’s sport, and that tournaments such as this one enable observers to measure the progress made by players as well as referees. “I’m very happy that we were invited to take part in this competition. There have been very few refereeing errors or debates about the officiating, which shows how far women’s football referees have come,” she said.
She also had a message for budding female referees. “There is a programme run in conjunction with the Qatari FA’s Refereeing Committee that encourages women to try their hand at refereeing. It is aimed at secondary school students and involves theoretical and practical components. It has produced around 100 female referees to date.”