Women taking charge: This week in Middle East football

Women taking charge: This week in Middle East football
Blog: Fatiha Jarmouni acted as lineswoman in a Moroccan first division match, a rarity for the region, writes Uri Levy
4 min read
29 May, 2017
Fatiha Jarmouni was assistant referee in the Raja Casablanca - Difaa Hassani Al-Jadida clash [Instagram]
A year ago, the Algerian FA announced that, due to clubs' lack of fiscal accountability and the will to develop the quality of local players, all Algerian clubs would be banned from signing foreign players.

The decision was met with mixed feelings within the country and the international football community, as this type of ban is far from ordinary.

Foreign footballers who already played in Algeria were allowed to stay, but no new players were allowed in.

As the 2016/17 Algerian season come to the crunch, with Setif and Mouloudieh fighting for the title, a change has arrived.

A document on the Algerian Football Federation's website declared that Ligue 1 Mobilis clubs may once more recruit foreign players for next season. "The number of foreign players may not exceed two, and those signed may not be over the age of 30," it declared.

The impact of foreign players on Algerian teams could be decisive, if only the system knows how to use them to best effect. The Algerian league - and especially its big clubs - has the potential to become a major stage for African players on their way to Europe.

So far it hasn't happened, but the second part of the ruling - "Those signed may not be over the age of 30" - is the key.

Algeria will not be a home for veteran big names to retire to, but a home for the young talent of the continent, as a stepping stone towards the future.

If team owners will use their budgets smartly, the sky is the limit for Algeria's role in developing African football.
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Moroccan lineswoman

The role of a football referee is, perhaps inexplicably, counted by many as a "men only" job.

But in recent years we have started to see attitudes changing, most lately in Germany, where Bibiana Steinhaus recently became a referee.

And in the past week, another woman took the whistle, as an assistant referee in Morocco.

Fatiha Jarmouni acted as lineswoman in Morocco's first division match between Raja Casablanca and Difaa Hassani Al-Jadida.

This is not the first time a woman has helped run a men's game in Morocco or the region in general, but it remains a rarity.

These occasions always spark discussions in social media, regarding the "religious meanings" of a female referee adjudicating over male footballers. 

Opinions remain divided, but the majority of reactions praised Fatiha and the Moroccan FA.

Morocco is not alone. Egypt, Tunisia the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Israel have already women working as match referees at official games. It is surely time for this to be seen as normal and non-controversial. There are places that support women's participation and equality in the Middle East. Football, at least in some countries, is definitely one of them.

Kuwaiti mess

Kuwait's Premier League drew to an end this weekend, with Kuwait SC crowned as champions.

As the last matchday kicked off, two league leaders - Qadsiya and Kuwait SC - each needed a victory to secure the title. Qadsiya hammered minnows Khaitan 4-0, as Al-Kuwait played away at Salmiya. But Kuwait equalised in the 91st minute, and gained an extraordinary winner in the 99th minute of an extraordinary stoppage time.

Earlier in the season, Al-Kuwait fielded an ineligible player in a match against Al-Arabi, and suffered a three-point deduction as a result. But the club kept quiet, and it seemed like the Kuwait FA and the league management also forgot about it. As a result, all the scores websites showed different winners of the league when the final whistle was blown.

Eventually, after long minutes of uncertainty and celebrations on both pitches, the Kuwaiti FA announced that Kuwait SC was the new champion of the Kuwaiti league.

FIFA's official website has also updated their standing in the same way.

Meanwhile, Qadsiya is willing to dispute the title and has asked for an urgent discussion and investigation. But at least until then, Al-Kuwait are the new champions of Kuwait, despite a disastrous and shameful end to their football season.

This is one Middle East saga that is sure to be continued...

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here