Alia Abu El Hawa (#9 above) poses with Jordan's starting 11 before a match against the Philippines Women's National Team. This was one of three matches she played for the Jordan Women's National Team at the AFC Asian Cup, the final stage of Asian qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.
After first getting called up to a February training camp with the Jordan National Team in Spain, Alia Abu El Hawa was asked to represent Jordan at a major international tournament in April in Jordan. It was an unexpected honor for the Virginia Tech junior, and one she seized to earn three caps and gain invaluable experience.
"It was awesome," she told a VT Athletics newsletter. "We played against a lot of really hard teams, which challenged me, playing against hard teams, and I played a position that I had never played before… a holding midfield."Alia, now a rising senoir at VT, has been a stalwart presence for the Hokies since her freshman year, starting 47 of the 51 games she's played in. In her youth career with McLean Youth Soccer's ECNL team, she was coached by Total Futbol's Nadir Moumen.
"Surprisingly, we had over 10,000 people at our first game, then 6,000 people at our second
and then 5,000 at the third game. There were so many signs empowering women.
Even though we lost all of the games, everyone was so proud of us."
- Alia Abu El Hawa
Although the Jordan National Team failed to qualify (after dropping three games to China PR, Thailand and the Philippines), Alia participated in a historic moment for women's soccer in Jordan. Jordan was the only Middle Eastern team to compete in the 8-team AFC Women's Asian Cup, the final stage of Asian qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France (the top five teams qualified). The competition is a quadrennial international tournament among women's national teams in the Asian Footbal Confederation (AFC). In 2018, it was played from April 6-20 in Amman, Jordan.
Australia, China PR, Japan, Jordan, Korea Republic, Phillippines, Thailand, and Vietnam all contended and Japan went on to win the tournament after beating Australia 1-0 in the Final. The Champion and runner-up, plus China PR, Thailand and South Korea all qualified for the FIFA Women's World Cup.
Jordan, a majority Muslim nation, does not have a strong tradition of women playing soccer and female athletes can face backlash from family and society. But Alia said the AFC Asian Cup showed times are changing. "Surprisingly we had over 10,000 people at our first game, then 6,000 at our second game and then 5,000 at the third game. The support was insane. There were so many signs empowering women. Even though we lost all of the games, everyone was so proud of us."
Alia (wearing her #26 jersey for VT at left) has started 47 of the 51 games she's played for the Hokies in her first three seasons of college soccer. As a newcomer to the Jordan National Team (#9 at right), she started all three games at the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup in April.
Video Highlights of Jordan v. Philippines Women's Asian Cup Match: