The Qatar women’s national soccer team has now disappeared from the FIFA rankings. 187 countries are listed there, including the Cook Islands or neighboring Bahrain – but Qatar is missing. What happened? Qatar probably played their last official game on April 17, 2014 against Jordan with the then national coach Monika Staab. The Hessian football coach Staab was hired in 2013, took Qatar to 111th place in the FIFA rankings, but was suddenly fired after a year and a half: “They wanted a man as a coach, an Arabic-speaking man,” she explains. “They told me that.”
No replies, interview canceled
Since then, the women’s team has not played any official matches. When asked by the world association whether Qatar has kept its promise, the received ARD radio research sports No Answer. An interview with the putative goalkeeper of the national team – which apparently only exists in appearance – is cut short before the conversation begins. A representative of the so-called Women’s Sports Committee of Qatar intervenes before the interview has even started. Otherwise none of the women can be spoken to. At least the former national player Nour Loubani can comment. She says that the women’s national team is currently not represented in any competitions:
“There was a friendly game there a few months ago. But there is no regular training. And there are no competitions either. Before we had any, but now I don’t think there are any more.”
– Nour Loubani
Restricted women’s rights
In connection with the World Cup, Qatar made a pledge to promote women’s football. It was not redeemed. In general, things are still bad for women’s sports in the desert state, explains political scientist and sociologist Tina Sanders: “There are these Wahhabi clerics who generally do not want to accept women’s sports and who have expressed the fear that women could lose their virginity by practicing sports.” Women are allowed to do sports by law and therefore do not need permission from men either, but: “In everyday social life, women usually have to be covered with an abaya or a headscarf and they are forced to have a male guardian. That means, that girls and women can be banned by their fathers and husbands from playing football, visiting stadiums or taking off their veils to do so,” explains Sanders.
The sports-loving 21-year-old student Ghaida from North Western University in Doha gives an insight into her everyday life. She has played soccer against all odds since she was a child:
“A teacher once wanted us to line up in front of the whole class. And he said, ‘I saw you girls playing soccer with the boys’. He was very religious and then he said, ‘It’s not allowed, why are you out there?’ It was very humbling and, to be honest, after that it became very difficult for me to feel comfortable on the football field and at school.”
– Student Ghaida
Former national coach Staab disappointed
Coach Monika Staab, who only briefly coached the Qatar women’s national team and is now in Saudi Arabia, still regularly calls players from her former team. They are very sad that Qatar has not yet managed to establish women’s football. Monika Staab’s impression – there is no real interest in promoting women’s football:
“Where is the league on a large field? Where do the girls play? Where do you have clubs where they are encouraged and can play games?”
– Monica Staab
Staab cannot understand the Qatari association’s arguments: “They say we don’t have enough women to play, that’s nonsense. It’s not because of the population. It’s because of how seriously I promote women’s football. And how ready I am am what to do for women’s football.” She also sees FIFA as having a responsibility when it comes to women’s football in Qatar: “I think FIFA should ask more questions.”
Situation problematic for women’s football
After the research, considerable doubts remain as to whether anything will change for women’s football in Qatar after the World Cup. The interview with Shaima Abdullah, the national goalkeeper, was forbidden on the spot. Other players didn’t even respond to interview requests. And officials from the Qatar Football Association and the Sports Committee for Women were also not willing to talk despite repeated requests.
A lack of structures and a lack of acceptance are the problem. Because even if the state allows women’s football, it also allows men to ban women from the sport.