Less than a year after the Saudi Arabian women’s national team made its debut, FIFA on Thursday selected the country’s first female international referee.
The oil-rich Saudis have taken a number of steps in the world of football, most recently luring the legendary 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo to the Saudi Pro League and perhaps hosting the World Cup jointly. Anoud Al-Asmari‘s international badge is the latest in this progression.
Al-Asmari, one of the eight Saudis named to the international panel by the world organization, told AFP, “I am thrilled to be the first Saudi female referee to get the international badge in the history of Saudi sports.
When asked how she would feel about refereeing a men’s game, Al-Asmari, 34, responded that she wouldn’t think about it until the Saudi FA gave their approval.
Opportunities in women’s sport have begun to emerge despite Saudi Arabia’s well-known conservatism, including a women’s football league that began in November 2021.
Last February, the first Saudi women’s national team defeated the Seychelles 2-0 in their inaugural encounter under the guidance of German veteran Monica Stapp.
Saudi Arabia has applied to host the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and is the only bidder for the Men’s Asian Cup in 2027. Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Qatar held the World Cup in November and December.
It is also thinking about submitting a combined bid with Egypt and Greece for the 2030 World Cup.