Earlier this year world football’s governing body, FIFA, passed a landmark ruling allowing Muslim women the right to wear a headscarf while playing.
It was the culmination of a yearlong campaign led by the head of the Jordanian Football Association, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, that reached a flashpoint in July 2011 when his nation’s female side were awarded a ‘walkover’ victory in Olympic qualification after their Iranian opponents refused to remove their headscarves.
Iran, along with Saudi Arabia, have mandatory requirements for women to wear a headscarf when in public and the enforcement of FIFA’s previous ban cost the side, regarded as one of Asia’s best female sides, the chance to compete at the London Olympics.
Fresh from the reversal of the ban Prince Ali turned his attention next to the standard of female football in his own nation and decided something needed to be done to overhaul the development of young Jordanian women.
Instead of turning, as would have been the case in the past, to a German, American or Brazilian coach he phoned up the Japanese Football Association and asked for their help.
So it was that Masahiko Okiyama arrived in Amman; a man with twenty years experience in women’s football being asked to guide the ‘revolution’ in the game that Jordan was undertaking.
This was notable on two fronts – firstly it demonstrated the regard with which Japan is held in female football worldwide but secondly it showed that, in many ways, female football is still a man’s game.
On the first point there are now dozens of Japanese coaches working with youth and national sides across Asia trying to raise the standard of female football.