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What Happened to the Qatar Women’s National Team?

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Al-Kuwari said she was in the process of moving the women’s national team under the aegis of the Qatar Football Association, where she is now employed, and that she had come to the federation with a list of demands for 2023: training camps, friendly matches, a new head coach, a goalkeeper coach, a training staff, dedicated facilities for the women’s team. The list goes on.

And if they don’t get these things? “We are waiting for the legacy of the World Cup to bring us up. That’s our only hope,” Saleh said.

The interview ended after a question about the 2022 World Cup bid, and whether the women thought their team was just a box to check in ensuring FIFA would approve Qatar’s plans. The players didn’t answer, but al-Kuwari spoke up. “No. No, no, no,” she said. Saleh translated for her again: The women’s team started in 2009, a year before the bid, she insisted, before Qatar knew it would host the World Cup.

The fundamental story of Qatar’s women’s national team is not singular. The players spent eight years without support, financing or interest commensurate to that of men’s soccer. What appears to have led to that difference — some combination of apathy and neglect — is similar to what women’s national teams are facing everywhere.

In the United States, the world champion women’s team sued the governing body for soccer in America to press its rights for equal treatment, and equal pay, with its country’s men’s team. Australia’s women’s team boycotted matches in a dispute over pay, and Canada’s women’s team, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, is locked in a bitter contract dispute with its federation.

In Qatar, the disappearance of the women’s team was in many ways an old, familiar story: When it came to resource allocation, men’s soccer came first.

“There is no reason in sitting here with a journalist and saying the same story every time without any benefit to us,” Saleh said. She added, “We are here to tell the world that we need more support, and that we are up to play and that we do have a women’s national team in Qatar.”

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