Women's football gaining popularity in Qatar

Women’s football is growing in popularity in the country and several Qatar Foundation (QF) partner universities now have their own teams.
If 20 years ago there were no places that could cater to young women who wanted to play football, today, there are a few," Deema al-Hammadi, a student at Texas A&M University at Qatar (Tamuq), a QF partner, said in an article on QF website.
“The options are still limited but they do exist, and that is something to be recognised,” she explained while observing that it is quite common for young girls in Qatar to play football but it’s a leaky pipeline, and many girls stop playing as they get older. 
The number one reason for this is the lack of access to suitable football facilities in line with their need for privacy.
“I remember, it was when I was starting senior school that I started looking for a proper women’s team that I could join outside school and with a female coach. I could not find one. The teams that I did find either had a male coach or did not play in a private female-only setting. It was frustrating,” explained, al-Hammadi.
After she joined Tamuq, al-Hammadi came across women-only community football classes at QF’s Education City (EC) and has since been playing with them.
She trains three times a week and is undoubtedly getting better. Al-Hammadi is hopeful that better and brighter days will come. “Change isn’t a switch that can be flipped, it’s a gradual process. Several other Qatari girls and I who play football are proof of the change that is coming.”
The EC strategy is focused on ensuring that all its sports facilities, including football, are conducive to women and girls playing sport. There are a few ways this is done; one is through actual infrastructure and seeing that it can be made private if needed. The second is by setting aside ladies-only timings and ensuring that they are conducive to women and their schedules. And finally, through offering sports programmes that are available for girls and women across the country of all ages and playing at any level.
Muneera al-Naimi – a non-QF member – enrolled in the women’s only football programme as soon as she found out about it and has been a regular since. 
“I live in Al Wakra which has several football pitches dotted around the city, but I still find myself having to drive to Education City three times a week. My drive is longer than my actual football session because that is the only place that is accessible to women like me,” noted, al-Naimi.
21-year-old Reema al-Suwaidi is a senior student at Northwestern University in Qatar, another QF partner. Al-Suwaidi’s passion for football started when she was just seven years old. While football started off as just a fun pastime activity, it quickly became more serious for al-Suwaidi. 
“It gave me a purpose and a sense of belonging. I didn’t want to just go to school and come back home every day like clockwork, I wanted to be a part of something bigger and that’s exactly what football gave me.”
Alexandru Rosca, manager, Community Engagement & Activation at QF, highlighted EC’s unwavering commitment toward making sports accessible and inclusive for all. Speaking particularly on the women’s football programme, he said that based on feedback from participants of the community engagement football classes, the EC team is currently looking at expanding the football programme and adding strength training to it by giving them access to the on campus gyms as well.

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