Maram Al-Butairi (left) and Karina Chapa have built Shulat Alsharqiya into a Saudi Women's Premier League club.
The story of Maram Al-Butairi, a successful Saudi businesswoman, and Karina Chapa, a seasoned expatriate from Houston, who jointly founded a women's football club in Saudi Arabia, is an incredible tale of determination, unity, and family bonds. Their collaboration as the President and Vice-President, respectively, of Shulat Alsharqia FC, or Eastern Flames, in Dammam, Saudi Women's Premier League's eight-team club, goes beyond mere titles. These two extraordinary women have worn many hats within the club, from mundane tasks like refilling water bottles and managing equipment to nurturing players and strategizing the club's growth. Simultaneously, they've been coaching, organizing tournaments, and elevating the club's status from a casual pastime to a fully professional entity with youth and futsal teams.
This transformation was led by Al-Butairi, who holds a finance degree and recently completed her MBA with an internship at the Spanish football federation. She proudly asserts that their club is no longer amateur but boasts approximately 50 employees, including players, staff, and coaches. Al-Butairi and Chapa's shared passion for football has forged a formidable force, solidifying a bond that transcends mere sisterhood; they consider themselves family.
Their remarkable journey began in 2013 when both joined Eastern Flames. Despite their diverse backgrounds, the strength of their friendship illustrates football's capacity to bring people together. They describe their connection as akin to a familial relationship.
In 2013, women's football in Saudi Arabia lagged far behind its present state. Now, a professional league with eight teams (soon expanding to ten) and a thriving second tier with up to 30 clubs exist, thanks to the visionary steps taken by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to organize women's football.
Al-Butairi, known as the "Little Beast" for her fearless pursuit of dreams, stresses the significance of dreaming big. Their aspirations for Eastern Flames and Saudi women's football are materializing.
While Al-Butairi is the dreamer, Chapa excels in execution. Their vision, although deemed audacious by some, persisted and is now a testament to their dedication and hard work. Eastern Flames is a club founded and run by women, catering to women's unique needs, as both Al-Butairi and Chapa comprehend the challenges of being women and mothers.
As the second season of the Saudi Women's Premier League commences, Shulat aims to build on last season's performance. With foreign talents and a new coach, they're eager to make their mark. Regardless of the outcome, Al-Butairi and Chapa, with their unwavering commitment, will continue to champion women's football in Saudi Arabia. Their tireless efforts embody the essence of their club—a place where women and their families are embraced and celebrated.