LUCA BIANCHIN / AIPS* in DUBAI:Manar Fraij has curly hair, a winning smile and 45 followers on Twitter. She was a brilliant forward and in 2009 she played ten minutes for Jordan against Kyrgyzstan in a Women’s Asian Cup qualification match.Then, at 21, her life changed: she was forced to quit playing due to an arm injury.”It was a really bad injury”, she recalled speaking in Dubai, where she is attending a FIFA Regional Coaching Workshop, organized in conjunction with the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
More than two dozen of coaches listened to an introductory speech from the FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, but the attention was on Manar for a simple reason: she was the one and only woman coach in the room.
Manar is 25 and is coach of both Jordan’s U-19 and U-14 women’s national teams. She is probably one of the youngest coaches of a national team in the world.
“I know I’m young but I’m happy to be here, together with more experienced colleagues from Oman, Qatar, UAE and so many other countries,” she said.
Ten minutes earlier, Manar had seen a video featuring the American Abby Wambach who, in 2012 won the FIFA World Player of the Year award. Manar’s goal is to train players such as Wambach. She said: “My dream is to become the coach of our Women’s National Team and bring Jordan to the World Cup.”
There is still a long way to go but Manar has already achieved something impressive: in April in Doha, she led Jordan to victory in the AFC West U-14 Girls’ Regional Championships. Jordan ended the tournament with a 100 percent record, beating Bahrain 5-0, UAE 10-0, Qatar 5-0 and Palestine 3-1.
“I promised to win this competition when we started and I am so proud to have achieved it,” she said in Doha after the last match. “Winning this tournament shows we’ve a strong team with a strong future. I’m very happy about this.”
Six months later, in Dubai, Manar this week and her coaching colleagues are watching and discussing the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013. However, when asked about a possible future as a coach of a men’s team, her smile vanished briefly.
She said: “Now the rules in Jordan don’t allow a woman to train a men’s team but one day, maybe, it will be possible.”