Saudi Arabia has expressed its desire to host the Asian Cup in women’s football in 2026, in an additional step for the Kingdom to engage in women’s football, according to what was announced on Monday by the Continental and Saudi Federations of the game.
Saudi Arabia is competing to host the tournament with Jordan, Australia and Uzbekistan, and while the door for expressing desires was closed on Sunday, the decision will be made “and announced during 2023,” according to the Continental Federation.
The website of the Saudi Football Association quoted its president, Yasser Al-Mishal, as saying that the desire to host the tournament “comes from the premise of achieving new leaps in the field of women’s football in the Kingdom, which the past months witnessed its launch despite its recent era.”
He pointed out that “the ambitious plan for women’s football in the Kingdom aims not only to spread the game or honorable representation in tournaments, but to provide the Saudi Federation with a distinctive version of women’s football.”
The Saudi women’s team played its first international match last February, when it defeated Seychelles 2-0 in the Maldives, after it was established in 2021.
The wealthy country, which has been closed for decades, is looking forward to building a women’s team capable of competing in foreign tournaments, something that was unimaginable a short time ago when the religious police imposed strict social rules on women.
Women were allowed to drive, the ban on mixing between men and women was ended, and the powers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice were curtailed, knowing that Riyadh continues to face accusations by human rights organizations of repressing activists, intellectuals and clerics.
Last November, Riyadh announced the launch of the local league with the participation of 16 teams and under the supervision of the “Women’s Football Department” of the Saudi Football Federation, just a few years after the ban on women playing the game was lifted.
Lamia Bin Bahian, Board Member of the Saudi Football Association and Director of Women’s Football, said, “We have great ambitions to develop women’s football in Saudi Arabia, and the recent progress has been amazing. We are truly entering a new and exciting era for women’s football.”
Last March, it revealed that Saudi Arabia plans to participate in the Women’s World Cup within the next ten years.
“When I talk to girls all over the Kingdom, I see their enthusiasm for the game. The 2026 Asian Cup is an unprecedented opportunity to inspire a generation of girls to realize their football dreams,” added German coach Monika Staab.
The tournament was expanded from 8 teams to 12 teams, with the last edition in 2022 in India being the largest ever.
Australia hosted the finals in 2006 and won its only title in 2010 in China, while Uzbekistan aspires to be the first country in the Central Asian region to host the tournament.
Jordan hosted the Asian Cup in 2018, and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2016, while Saudi Arabia aspires to become the second country in the West Asian region to host the tournament after Jordan.
The tournament began in 1975 in Hong Kong, and China dominated it with nine titles, compared to 3 each for North Korea and Taipei.
Among the Arab countries, Jordan participated twice in 2014 and 2018, and was eliminated from the group stage.