People have been anticipating Saudi Arabia’s participation in the 2018 World Cup for months … and the countdown has officially begun.
On June 14, Saudi’s national team will play against the host nation, Russia … but there’s more to the date than just that.
For the first time, an all-female Saudi delegation will lead the Green Falcons into the game.
Six Saudi girls, between ages 13 and 17, were chosen to participate in the games under Coca-Cola’s FlagBearers Program.
“We are delighted to support the changes that are happening in Saudi Arabia and spread the message of inclusion, diversity and support by championing these Saudi girls who are role models for the future generation of the Kingdom,” said Murat Ozgel, General Manager of Coca-Cola Middle East, according to Saudi Gazette.
The girls chosen under Coca Cola’s program include Mariam Shalan, a professional free-diver, and Rayouf Al-Humedhi, creator of the hijab emoji.
“It’s an honor for me to represent Saudi Arabia at the World Cup in Russia. Personally, it’s amazing to witness the change that is happening to our country, to ourselves, the youth and everyone. I think Saudi Arabia is on a beautiful path, a path with a lot of opportunities,” said Shalan, according to Arab News.
Other flag-bearers representing Saudi Arabia include Rose Anne Khawaja (founder of Us The Youth organization), Ghayed Al-Wassiah (15-year-old artist), Dana Al-Toaimi (future science journalist,) and Ghala Al-Shael, according to Vogue.
The move comes as part of Coca-Cola’s efforts to celebrate sweeping changes under the kingdom’s Vision 2030, an initiative that has been championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the country seeks to diversify its economy.
In 2017, Coca-Cola released a video advertisement – under the hashtag #ChangeHasATaste – in celebration of King Salman’s royal decree allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia.
This week, Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Traffic issued driver’s licenses to 10 female motorists, a few weeks before the ban on women driving is officially lifted.
Here’s to more firsts in 2018.