wadad hachichou /Doha Qatar
In the latest Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) ‘It’s My Game’ feature, Maha Janoud, the Head of Women’s Football in Oman Football Association (OFA), shares her inspiring rise in the sport from an amateur footballer to becoming the first woman to coach a men’s football team in West Asia.
Maha, who is also the AFC Women’s Football Committee member, started her football career in the Physical Education Institute in Syria, where like many young girls, faced several obstacles in society.
“It was not easy to play football but our desire, dedication and passion for football pushed us to chase our dreams,” said Maha.
After outstanding performances and hard work, Maha was selected to the national team and represented Syria for six years. She guided her team to a third place result in the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship in 2005 before earning her AFC coaching certificates.
As a football coach, Maha faced many challenges but she prevailed and in 2018, she was named the first female coach of Syrian League 1st Division club Al-Muhafaza in Damascus.
In their first season, they won 10 matches and missed out on promotion to the Premier League after registering just a single defeat but Maha still held her head high.
“The experience of coaching a men’s team was very extensive and useful. Many people asked me how I could be a coach for a men’s team and how it felt being the only female in the team. There is no difference between men and women when it comes to coaching.”
After her coaching stint, Maha continues to contribute to women’s football in West Asia after transitioning to football administration. She firmly believes that the development of the grassroots game and competitions are the cornerstones of women’s football.
“Through my experience and research, I found that there are many girls, women coaches and referees who are passionate about football in Oman. This indicates women’s football is developing, and Member Associations are starting to attach great importance to promoting the women’s game in West Asia.
“I thank the Oman FA for their trust. As we all know, football should start from the grassroots, so we need to concentrate on the young players by nurturing, developing and organising competitions for them, and help clubs in West Asia launch women’s football in all age categories.”
Maha hopes to inspire the new generation of young girls to chase their ambitions despite facing challenges.
“One of the things that I have learnt from football is that nothing is impossible, and society cannot decide what we want and like,” she added.
“Today we can see many girls who want to play football. This is happening everywhere in Asia, West Asia and Europe. My dream is to see professionalism in women’s football in West Asia, and that we can be at the same level with high quality professional teams, in the Asian and World qualifiers, and playing in the World Cup.”
The AFC’s It’s My Game campaign, which continues to celebrate the women’s game and recognise and encourage more women to join the workforce in football, has been viewed more than 588,041 times and reached over 1.45 million people across the AFC’s digital channels.