JEDDAH: Media coverage of sport plays a key role in the representation of athletes of different nationalities and ethnicities in their respective fields. It can promote a global dialogue that transcends femininity and masculinity, embracing the inclusive nature of sport and signaling it to the world.
Yet, globally and locally, the representation of women in sports media coverage appears to remain disadvantaged compared to that of men.
In December 2007, Arab News covered the first female street basketball tournament in Jeddah, hosted by Jeddah United Sports Company and Gold’s Gym, and featured Saudi sportsmanship and highly skilled female athletes.
Asked about the visibility gained through the tournament, Lina Al-Maeena, co-founder of JUSCo. and former member of the Shura Council, told Arab News: “I have to say that this has opened doors for us, especially on the international front. CNN and BBC, as well as many international channels, have approached us and many potential sponsors, such as Nike, have also connected with us.
JUSCo. is the first private Saudi sports company to train girls and boys in basketball, football and volleyball, and to promote the culture of sports and physical activity.
Al-Maeena added, “Women’s sports are definitely underfunded and underpromoted. We don’t have any dissemination initiatives yet, but advocating for equal airtime is important to promote the representation of women in sport, as well as fundraising through sponsorship. “
In line with Vision 2030 and the 16 Sustainable Development Goals, the Kingdom aims to ensure healthy lives and the well-being of individuals of all ages.
The Saudi National Transformation Agenda launched in 2016 continues to raise living standards and foster sport and the private sector, including social development and empowerment of the Saudi people, and women in particular.
On November 22, 2021, the Saudi Football Federation Regional Football League kicked off, marking a new era for women’s football in the Kingdom.
“The NTP has enabled young people to broaden their horizons and also explore the possibilities of sport,” Al-Maeena said.
She added that the sports sector is a sister sector to the health and education sectors, emphasizing physical activity as a preventive aid to many physical, psychological and social ailments.
Arab News spoke to female athletes about their journey from amateur to professional, and the family and athletic support they received in their quest to make their dreams come true.
32-year-old Saudi sports defender and professional football player Saja Kamal shared the uplifting experience of the Saudi Women’s Professional Football League 2020 Sports For All under the Ministry of Sports.
“My father introduced me to football when I was four years old, at a time when playing a male dominated sport was difficult, and almost a privilege for girls and women,” Kamal said.
During his high school education in Bahrain, Kamal joined Arsenal Football School.
“It’s not that women’s sports don’t have a fan base or an interested audience, it’s just a matter of equal access and media coverage,” she said.
Elham Al-Fahad, a 36-year-old Saudi footballer, broke the 2019 world record for the longest football match held at the Fondation de Lyon as part of a non-profit initiative promoting gender equality and the ‘access to sport, Kamal being classified in third place.
“My dream is to become a coach for Al-Hilal football club when they create a national team,” Al-Fahad said when asked about her future plans.
Al-Fahad was also part of the challenge for the football team in Riyadh before women’s football was formalized in the Kingdom.
“I was encouraged by the men in my family to join them to play football, and at the age of seven I became completely addicted to the sport, to the point of taking my football with me to bed when I was a child. “
Yasmina bin Mahfooz, a 30-year-old professional tennis player, told Arab News that she joined Al-Nasser tennis club in early 2021.
“My parents allowed me to discover all kinds of sports and activities, and in doing so, my passion for tennis was born at the age of six,” she said.
“Introducing children from an early age to all kinds of sports serves as an outlet and a disciplinary tool, and for that I encourage women and young girls to always dream big and indulge in the world of physical activity.
Al-Maeena said: “The legislation for women’s clubs is very recent and although the trend is towards privatization, women’s sports have not received the opportunities and funding that men’s sports have received in recent decades, which allowed them to develop and progress much more than women’s sports. sports.”
She said that attitudes towards women in sport could be improved by promoting equal access to sports media and various sports in educational institutions under the Ministry of Sports.
Any promotion must be culturally sensitive, and respect for the rules of public decency is important to be accepted, she added.