Zest for women’s soccer grows in Middle East despite conservative opposition
By Mark Brown
28 August 2017
There are many more female soccer players in a more general sense now than a few years ago but in terms of actual numbers in professional soccer’s highest and most lucrative league, the women’s Premier League in England, the numbers are still quite small.
In all three divisions of the top flight in the country, the three divisions in England’s top-flight women’s soccer league, there is less than 20,000 players on a yearly basis, one of the smallest in the world. And this is despite the women playing a full professional season year-in and year-out.
This is despite the fact that in the past decade or so, soccer has become more and more accessible to women and especially to young women like myself, from the kind of places where soccer is still very much a man’s game. This has been brought about by the growth of women’s soccer clubs and leagues, not least the growing popularity and awareness of the sport in the Arab world.
For example, in Egypt, the professional league is in the third division and there are only four teams, one of them from the United Arab Emirates. In Saudi Arabia, there are no professional clubs, there are only one or two clubs playing the first tier of professional soccer in the country and the women’s league is very small and the top league there is for just the “2nd” division of football.
Women’s soccer is still very much underrepresented in the top flight in England but this year, as part of the Middle East’s bid for FIFA World Cup 2018, it is set to become much more prominent in the Premier League. The Middle East’s bid was an impressive one and they may have won the bid not only for 2022 but also for 2026 and 2030 and probably 2032 and beyond if those bids are successful.