Thursday 17 August 2023, 00:00

Women's Football development overcoming challenges in South Lebanon

Five years ago, Lebanese football star Sahar Dbouk, in collaboration with former international player Sarah Awally, was putting the finishing touches on the establishment of the first girls' academy in South Lebanon. Approximately 80 kilometers from the Lebanese capital Beirut, Super Girls FC was established. Dbouk previously had to travel from southern Lebanon every two days to train in Beirut with Sadaka SC (which she joined in 2009). The difficulties she went through as a player herself, motivated her to help a new generation of girls play, by establishing the first academy in the region. Sahar's dream has shifted from a small idea involving five girls in its infancy, to a professional academy that now includes more than 50 girls aged 4 to 12, with Super Girls playing an important role in changing the perception of women's football.

Talking to, Dbouk said: "The general view in our region is that football is not for girls. We have been changing perceptions little by little since the academy was founded. "We started by delivering women's football activities in the region, encouraging girls and their families to participate with us. The aim is to develop the skills of young girls and put them on the right path. The team also includes a mental coach who plays an important role in helping girls overcome any pressures they may face."

Super Girls FC training

Wholesale difficulties

The establishment of Super Girls coincided with the deterioration of the economic situation in Lebanon in 2019, yet despite these difficulties, Dbouk still believes there is hope for the continued growth of women's football. "We did not despair. We got support from the municipality and UNIFIL as they donated a special team bus to transport all the players to training in order to motivate them to continue playing," she said, adding, "our next goal will be to have a special training ground. We share a pitch with the men's clubs in the area, which is why we are currently only able to train at an early time twice a week."

"UNIFIL also provided us with a lot of football and medical equipment. The impact of the team has been great on the community as we also work with our girls to develop their life skills.”

Develop professionally

In addition to Dbouk's coaching role, the club’s manager Sarah Awally plays an important role in the academy. "If we compare the current situation to what it was five years ago, there is a big difference" Awally said. "We have broken many barriers. The team for example has many players who wear a hijab. More families are encouraging their girls to participate in football and schools have an important role in collaborating with us to develop existing talents too. Having a team for girls in the area is now considered very important."

Coach Sahar Dbouk gives instructions for girls

Among the talents that stand out in the academy is 11-year-old goalkeeper Lynn Mughniyeh, currently the youngest player at the club: "Playing football at Super Girls is great, and the older girls support me a lot" she said. Super Girls has also now become a tributary for Lebanon's women's national teams, with Dbouk leading Lebanon's U-16 team to victory in the 2023 West Asian Championship earlier this year.

A dream getting closer

While the Lebanon women's national team has never participated at the FIFA World Cup, Dbouk believes this dream is increasingly less far-fetched. "We are now on the right track. Lebanon's national teams are now among the most prominent women's teams in West Asia and if we continue working at the age group level, the dream of reaching a FIFA Women's World Cup is not impossible."

Awally equally stressed that this dream can be realized in the future: "All clubs, academies and schools are now developing women's football. Morocco’s participation in the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time has been an inspiration. If we continue to work on our U-17 and U-19 teams, I am convinced we will qualify for a future Women's World Cup."

Coach Sahar Dbouk gives instructions for Super Girls FC players