Women’s soccer in the Middle East: Zainab Jumlani

Zest for women’s soccer grows in Middle East despite conservative opposition. Share Zest for women’s soccer grows in Middle East despite conservative opposition. Middle East: Zest for soccer has blossomed despite an oppressive conservative…

Women's soccer in the Middle East: Zainab Jumlani

Zest for women’s soccer grows in Middle East despite conservative opposition.

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Zest for women’s soccer grows in Middle East despite conservative opposition.

Middle East: Zest for soccer has blossomed despite an oppressive conservative regime

When she arrived in Dubai in 2007, she wasn’t sure what path she would take. “It was completely unknown, and I never thought that I would end up in Dubai,” she says. “I had no concept of how things like this would play out.”

But in a year, Zainab Jumlani, now a mother of three and the head coach for the women’s team at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation, would grow from a few women’s soccer players in her neighborhood to become the first female coach of a men’s senior national team. In less than a decade, Zainab would open her own business, and win the National Coach of the Year Award from the UAE Women’s Olympic Committee twice in her first year of coaching. Her success is in sharp tension with her conservative society, where women are confined to the home and are not allowed to leave the country without a man’s permission.

“I know that the men’s league might be a lot larger than the women’s league, a lot more of the money might be earned by men, and it might be easier,” Zainab says. “But I know the women have the same talent and ability and commitment that I have, and the same will that I have to achieve our dream of the UAE women’s national team.”

Zainab is one of the thousands of women who have started playing for UAE women after the women’s federation opened their doors in 2005. Before the federation, the UAE was one of the few countries in the world where men and women had separate teams. The first women’s team was created just over a year after the opening of the UAE federation’s door in 2005. The federation launched its first women’s team in 2008, and now boasts more than 30 women’s teams — an exponential rate of growth for women’s soccer in the Middle East.

“It was a pretty difficult journey, not only by women, but also the federation,” Zainab says. “But

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