Croatian football president praises ‘fascinating journey’ of Saudi women’s football

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The president of Croatia’s football federation praised the development of women’s involvement in the sport in Saudi Arabia, during a ceremony ahead of a friendly match between the two countries on Wednesday.

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Delegates from both countries’ football associations signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Riyadh, pledging to work together to explore areas of collaboration in the game.

Afterwards, Croatian Football Federation (HNS) president Marijan Kustić congratulated the progress that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has made in incorporating female players into the Kingdom’s footballing landscape.

“I was particularly impressed by the fascinating journey of [Saudi] women’s football in just a few years,” he said in a statement.

“It is truly a great story and I congratulate the SAFF team on the important work they are doing across different areas of the women’s game.”

SAFF women’s department supervisor Lamia Bahain and department head Aalia al-Rasheed received a gift of a Saudi jersey signed by members of the Croatian team, including Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić, Tottenham Hotspur’s Ivan Perisić, Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacić, and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozović.

Women’s football in the Kingdom has seen unprecedented investment in recent years as traditional restrictions on female participation in sports have lifted.

SAFF establish the country’s first women’s national team in 2021, which first played against the Seychelles in February of this year, winning 2-0.

Women’s and girls’ school leagues have also been established, and SAFF announced in August its bid to host the 2026 Women’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) cup in the Kingdom.

The Saudi men’s team were defeated by Croatia by 1-0 on Wednesday, after a late goal from the 2018 World Cup runners-up’s Andrej Kramaric.

“Croatia is among the world’s elite football nations, and their national team captured the world’s attention four years ago by reaching the FIFA World Cup final,” said SAFF president Yasser al-Misehal in a statement.

“Their 2018 campaign will remain in the history books forever. We are pleased to have welcomed them in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the past few days ahead of their trip to Doha,” he added.

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