The Trailblazing Hijabi Athletes Making History at the 2023 Women’s World Cup

As the 2023 Women’s World Cup unfolds in Australia and New Zealand, it heralds a momentous occasion for diversity and inclusivity in football. FIFA, the international football governing body, has proudly celebrated the groundbreaking achievements of two remarkable women: Moroccan football player Nouhaila Benzina, the first hijabi Muslim footballer to compete at the global stage, and Heba Saadieh, the first hijabi referee in the history of the tournament.

Nouhaila Benzina Shatters Barriers

In a groundbreaking announcement on Twitter, FIFA lauded Nouhaila Benzina, stating that her participation at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 will be historic as she will be the first player ever to wear a hijab during the tournament. This achievement is not only significant for Morocco but for the entire global football community.

Nouhaila Benzina, a 25-year-old footballer who also represents the Moroccan Royal Army Football Club (FAR), joined the national team in 2018. Her talent, skills, and dedication have earned her a place in the history books, inspiring countless individuals worldwide.

Morocco’s Journey in Group H

The tournament draw placed Morocco in Group H, a challenging group that includes Colombia, South Korea, and Germany. Morocco’s journey will commence on July 24, with an exciting match against Germany, promising a display of football brilliance.

Heba Saadieh’s Historic Milestone

On another historic note, Heba Saadieh, aged 34, has etched her name in history as the first Palestinian referee ever to officiate at a World Cup. Like Nouhaila, Heba also proudly wears a hijab, symbolizing her identity and faith on the grandest stage of women’s football.

Heba’s early years were spent in Syria before she moved to Malaysia in 2012. In addition to her achievements in football refereeing, she works as a physical education teacher. The weight of responsibility on her shoulders is significant, as she aims to showcase her best performance during the tournament, opening doors for future Palestinian women and men referees to follow their dreams.

A Stellar Officiating Career

Heba Saadieh’s journey to the Women’s World Cup has been paved by her exceptional refereeing career. She has officiated in prestigious events such as Women’s AFC Cup and Asian Cup matches, World Cup qualifiers, and even games at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her dedication and expertise have earned her respect and admiration from the football community and fans alike.

Praises and Recognition

Nouhaila Benzina’s and Heba Saadieh’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. People from all corners of the world have praised and commended them for their courage, skill, and trailblazing spirit.

Women’s Football tweeted, “Incredible to see more history being made at this year’s Women’s World Cup in the shape of Moroccan footballer Nouhaila Benzina wearing a hijab for the first time ever.”

SHE scores bangers added, “25-year-old Nouhaila Benzina for the Atlas Lionesses will be the only Hijabi athlete out of 736 participating players in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Morocco’s participation is the first ever from a MENA region. The nation and the players are inspiring more than one can imagine.”

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The 2023 Women’s World Cup is not just about showcasing top-tier football talent; it is also a celebration of diversity, breaking barriers, and empowering women in sports. Nouhaila Benzina and Heba Saadieh’s historic achievements serve as powerful symbols of progress and inclusivity, leaving an indelible mark on the world of football.


Who is Nouhaila Benzina?

Nouhaila Benzina is a Moroccan football player and the first hijabi Muslim footballer to compete at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

What group is Morocco in for the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

Morocco is in Group H, alongside Colombia, South Korea, and Germany.

Who is Heba Saadieh?

Heba Saadieh is the first Palestinian referee to officiate at a World Cup and wears a hijab.

What are Heba Saadieh’s previous officiating experiences?

Heba has officiated in Women’s AFC Cup and Asian Cup matches, World Cup qualifiers, and games at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

How has Nouhaila Benzina been received by the football community?

Nouhaila Benzina has received widespread praise and commendations for her historic achievement, inspiring people around the world.

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