PROFILE: Heba Saadieh, First Palestinian to Referee in FIFA Women’s World Cup

Palestinian international referee Heba Saadieh. (Photo: via FIFA Website)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Originally from Palestine, lived and studied in Syria, became a refugee, again, in Malaysia, and eventually moved to Sweden. Heba Saadieh’s story is that of the quintessential Palestinian refugee, always prevailing over hardship.  

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) chose a Palestinian referee to take part in the ongoing Women’s World Cup matches.

The games started on July 20 and will go on until August 20 in both Australia and New Zealand.

Saadieh, 34, was born to Palestinian parents in the Yarmouk refugee camp, in Syria. 

She studied physical education at Damascus University. 

Her refereeing career started in Syria, but in March 2012, the war forced her to flee to Malaysia.

Saadieh later moved to the Swedish capital, Stockholm, where she pursued a FIFA referee license. 

In 2016, she obtained the international refereeing badge.

Saadieh officiated for several international tournaments, including the Olympics qualification matches, the Women’s World Cup qualifiers, and the Asian Football Confederation Cup.

“I’m so proud to be the first-ever Palestinian referee, male or female, in the World Cup,” Saadieh told Al Jazeera. 

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“That makes me feel a responsibility to show a very good performance during the tournament. And I hope I can open this door for others, for Palestinian women referees – and men also – to be selected in the future.”

(WAFA, PC, New Arab)

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