Saudi Arabia will host its first-ever international women’s football league tournament this week as Saudi attempts to change its reputation as an authoritarian state where women have few rights.
The nine-day tournament will bring the national women’s league teams of Pakistan, Comoros and Mauritius to Saudi Arabia. The matches will also be officiated by Anoud al-Asmari, who became the first Saudi woman to be accredited as an international referee by FIFA only last week.
Saudi women’s football league or Sports washing?
Saudi Arabia is trying to become a global hub for hosting sporting events, having already hosted Formula One. The country’s leaders have also expressed their desire to host the Olympics and World Cup in the hopes of restoring the kingdom’s reputation.
However, despite these attempts human rights groups and critics have accused the nation of “sports washing” its human rights record. By hosting these events, Saudi Arabia is able to showcase its modernity and progress to the world, while also promoting the country as a destination for tourism and investment.
Critics argue that this “sport-washing” is an attempt to distract from the country’s human rights abuses and lack of political freedoms, as well as to present a more positive image to the international community. Additionally, it’s also been argued that the rights of the workers involved in the construction of the venues for these events have been violated.
Saudi Arabia’s shocking defeat of Argentina during the World Cup group stage by the country’s men’s team sent people across the Arab world into a state of euphoria. Saudi’s success was quickly replicated after it was announced that Cristiano Ronaldo would be moving to Al Nassr until June 2025. Saudi women’s football league tournament will gain international media attention during the tournament.
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