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RIYADH: Layan Jouhari is a young footballer in a hurry.

In keeping with the giant strides that Saudi Arabia’s women’s football continues to take, the 23-year-old from Jeddah has already crammed into a fledgling career, achievements that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

A regular for her beloved Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Women’s Premier League, and for her country on the international stage, she is now the voice of Saudi Arabia’s bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup.

In a promotional film released by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation this week, Jouhari narrates the country’s vision behind hosting the game’s showpiece event.

As the Kingdom joins the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, Jouhari revealed her joy and pride at being chosen for the role.

“When I got the news that they wanted me to do the voiceover, I was so, so excited,” she said. “I didn’t even hesitate. I said, ‘where’s the studio? I’m coming.’ This is big.”

“I remember going into the studio and reading the script, and it was just so inspirational,” she said. “It really touched my heart to the point that when I was reading it, and we were recording, it was actually very easy to tap into the emotion and the passion of it all, because it really expressed very well how we feel about football, and the community here in Saudi and the passion that we have.”

The film begins with footage that highlights the national team’s football heritage, including Saeed Al-Owairan’s legendary winner against Belgium at the 1994 World Cup in the US, Sami Al-Jaber’s goal against Tunisia at Germany 2006, and Salem Al-Dawsari’s conquering strike against Argentina at Qatar 2022.

Interspersed with these landmark moments are images of Saudi Arabia’s football fans and sweeping landscapes from across the Kingdom.

“We believe in the power of football, the power it has to bring us joy and create memories that live forever,” Jouhari says in the film.

“You see, it’s more than just a game, it’s a passion, a way of life, a universal language that connects us all. We’re on an exciting journey but we’re just getting started.”

“We welcome guests with open arms and warm hearts, play host to millions, sharing our culture and experience,” Jouhari’s voice continues. “There is no limit to our ambition, believing in the potential that lives in every child, every player and every community. And we’ve turned heads all around the world.”

In a promotional film released by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation this week, Layan Jouhari narrates the country’s vision behind hosting the game’s showpiece event. (Supplied/SAFF)

For the eloquent Jouhari, the work in the recording studio flowed naturally.

“It’s really easy to tap into all of that and create a voiceover that can really tell the story and allow people to feel how we’re feeling because in the end, that’s what we’re looking for,” she said. “We want people to really believe in what we believe in, and to feel the passion that we’re feeling.”

The video also highlights the role that players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Karim Benzema are playing in raising the profile of Saudi Arabia’s football on a global stage, and ends with a nod toward grassroots football in the country.

“Investing in our future. Unlocking talent,” she continues. “And the time has now come to share it with the world. Football has power to bridge cultures and forge unbreakable bonds, to thrill, excite and inspire. So what is that we believe in, you ask?

“We believe in ‘Growing. Together.’”

Jouhari says Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the 2034 World Cup would be “the greatest news ever.”

A regular for her beloved Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Women’s Premier League, and for her country on the international stage, Layan Jouhari is now the voice of Saudi Arabia’s bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup. (Supplied/SAFF)

“I remember when I first read about it, when we saw the news, we all had a moment — is this real?” she said. “But at the same time, you expect it, with all the development and all the progress that Saudi has made, and especially in the sports industry, so it’s not that surprising if you really look at the bigger picture.”

Jouhari is no stranger to representing Saudi Arabia, on and off the pitch.

Last year, with several teammates from the national team, she starred in “Destined to Play,” a FIFA+ documentary that documents the rise of women’s football in Saudi Arabia.

The film, which was released to coincide with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, also highlights the sterling work behind the scenes of Adwaa Al-Arifi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy sports minister; Lamia Bahaian, vice president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation; and Alia Al-Rasheed, director of the Women’s Football Department at the SAFF.

In a heartwarming scene from “Destined to Play,” Jouhari recalls how, following her debut for the national team, several male family members said they were now living, through her, their dreams of representing the Green Falcons.

From now until the World Cup, millions of the country’s boys and girls will no doubt dream of achieving what she has in such a short period of time.

“I’m really proud of everything that Saudi has been going through,” Jouhari told Arab News. “I feel like the World Cup is in safe hands if we were to host it. It is the men’s World Cup, but it definitely reflects positively on the entire football community here, including the woman’s football community here in Saudi.”

“It’s definitely an amazing step to take in the future.”

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