In October 2017, Saudi Arabia made a groundbreaking announcement that stunned the world: for the first time ever, women would be allowed to attend football matches in the Kingdom. That same year, Saudi Arabia appointed Reema Bint Bandar as head of a Saudi multi-sports federation, the first woman to ever hold such a position in the Kingdom. Since then, Saudi Arabia has been working on increasing the participation of women and girls in sports, a move that has been instrumental in increasing the number of women’s football teams across the country over the last year.
One such team is the United Eagles, which includes 21 women between the ages of 18 and 22. The team, which was formed in 2016, started out with 12 college students who were brought together by a love for the game, explained Captain Nouf Al-Shammari in a recent interview with Arab News.
Ever since its formation, the United Eagles has participated in a number of unofficial friendly matches within the region, and finally took part in its first regional tournament last year. This year, the team entered its second official regional tournament, which was organized by Sport Box, an academy based in Alkhobar.
Team member Waad Al-Dhowayan explained to the news site that when the women witnessed the level of professionalism other teams from around the region displayed at the tournaments, they realized that they needed to embark on a more vigorous and consistent training plan “with a specialized trainer in order to move forward and compete at a professional level.”
Although the sport is still a new one for Saudi women to participate in, the United Eagles are unwavering in their determination. Under the sweltering heat of summer, the women still meet up to train on cement, with the guidance of a coach and using gear that they have self-funded.
With the increasing number of female sports teams are popping up across the Kingdom like never before, many are crediting the phenomenon to Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan, spearheaded by the Kingdom’s young Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, to reform its society and diversify its economy, a plan being. Ever since his ascension, the Crown Prince has worked on bringing back public cinemas to Saudi society, rescinding the ban on women drivers, and opening up previously male-dominated sectors to women.