Welcoming the World Cup

Organizers of this month’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup say the event represents a unique opportunity to develop the game at home and prove the Kingdom can host international sports tournaments.

By Laith Abou-Ragheb

The eyes of the sporting world will be fixed on Jordan this month for the start of the under-17 Women’s World Cup.

Ever since Jordan was selected by FIFA to host the event back in 2013, Samar Nassar has led the huge operation to ready the Kingdom for the tournament, which has included a multi-million dinar overhaul of its sporting facilities.

Nassar, who herself has competed in two Olympic Games as a swimmer, believes bringing the World Cup to Jordan will help develop the women’s game domestically and raise Jordan’s profile around the world.

How much work has gone into preparing for the tournament?

From the day we won the hosting rights for this competition, we have aimed to do much more than just deliver a successful mega sporting event. Our focus has been on revamping the sporting infrastructure and leaving a true and lasting legacy. The country has so far invested JD25 million in renovating Jordan’s football infrastructure to bring them up to par with international FIFA standards, adding new seating, changing rooms, media centers, lighting and state-of-the-art IT systems which all enhance the player and spectator experience. On-the-ground requirements to host the U-17 World Cup are the same as those of any other FIFA World Cup event, making us equipped to host future international tournaments. We’ve also constructed 17 new training sites for the use of competing teams, located within the communities that need them the most. After the tournament’s completion these sites will be used by local sports clubs, community groups, schools, and universities, so that everyone will be able to benefit from the infrastructure that we’re leaving behind. Alongside these efforts, we have rolled out a number of promotional campaigns to rally local support behind the tournament, including the launch of an official song and a nationwide trophy tour.

What will hosting the tournament mean for Jordan?

Hosting this World Cup has put Jordan on the map as an international destination for football, and has sent a strong message to the world that Jordan is ready and eager to host other major sporting events. It has also given us the momentum to continue growing and developing women’s football and to use this as an opportunity to empower women and to change misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding gender. When these young girls are on the pitch, they’re not just representing their country; they’re also representing all Jordanian women and revealing their potential. We’re confident that the effect of this World Cup won’t just be limited to Jordan, it will ripple across the region, showing women that they are capable of excelling both on and off the football field.

What about in terms of promoting Jordan as a destination?

The backdrop of the tournament is just as important as the games themselves. We’re looking forward to showing everyone just how beautiful our country is and we’ll be offering up our world-renowned hospitality to spectators, media representatives, sport delegations, and other guests. The tournament will help establish Jordan as a hub for major regional and international events, generating touristic activity for years to come. Also, we have booked a significant number of rooms in several five-star hotels around the capital for delegations to stay for the duration of the 40-day event. We’re also promoting travel packages to all the major touristic sites around the Kingdom, so that participating teams can take home positive memories of Jordan.