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A Saudi women's soccer team practices in secret, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Image Credit: AP

Manama: Haila Al Farraj is set make history on Friday by becoming the first woman in Saudi Arabia to comment on a football match.

The matches will be part of the first football tournament for women to be hosted by Saudi Arabia and that will bring together 16 teams from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the Sports City in Khobar in the Eastern Province.

Haila told the media that she was proud to be a trailblazer for Saudi women in sports and insisted that her designation to comment on the matches was based on her aptitudes and not on any form of nepotism or favouritism.

Her brother Waleed is among the best-known sports broadcasters in Saudi Arabia while another brother Khalid has achieved fame thanks to comedies on social media.

“I have been moving forward on my own, gradually building my reputation,” she said.

“Both my brothers categorically refuse nepotism and believe that people should succeed on relying on themselves, especially in the media field where incompetence becomes flagrant for all to see and criticise,” she said, quoted by Al Sharq Al Awsat.

Haila said that she has worked with private radio stations and for a while, she was on the administrative staff of a newspaper.

She also joined several charitable and community organisations.

“All the experience I have accumulated over the years have motivated to work on becoming better at what I do and to improve my capabilities. I have been fortunate to have the support of my family, husband and brothers.”

Haila said that she had been greatly influenced by UAE commentator Fares Awadh and stressed that her ambition would not be confined to the first GCC women’s tournament and that she looked forward to commenting on the matches of the top Saudi league and eventually on international matches and championships.

She refused attempts to belittle her new status as a broadcaster who would not be heard on national radio or television.

“There is so much that can be reported and highlighted and the spectators will need information and details that I will provide. There is so much that can be mentioned during the broadcasting,” she said.

Organisers said that there would be three women referees from Oman and two from Bahrain.

Each team will field five players, including a goalkeeper, and matches will last 40 minutes.

Under an ambitious drive to empower women, Saudi women have been encouraged to play an active role in sports, to form teams and take part in local and international competitions.