Manal Al-Dabbagh – A Saudi woman with many firsts
Manal Al-Dabbagh has a number of firsts to her name. She is the first Saudi and Arab sports photographer to enter and take pictures in stadiums. She is also the first Saudi female lenswoman who has participated in a Football World Cup, while clicking her way to glory.
She has some of the most intriguing and beautiful action pictures of football in Saudi Arabia and many other countries of the world to prove that one’s passion can eventually be translated into one’s career.
It was her hope that she would one day storm into the male dominated bastion of sports photography, and with determination and honing of her photography skills she has achieved her aspiration.
Speaking to Al-Madinah newspaper, Al-Dabbagh said she, like every student, obtained a secondary school certificate and then she studied psychology. But while studying, she practiced photography and earned certificates from the Philippines, Egypt and the UAE.
What was just a passion now became my passionate career, as she became a professional sports photographer and she reached a pinnacle of her career when she took part in some of the world’s most important sports events, including the 2010 Mundial in South Africa.
She said: “I chose photography because I love photography and sports. I had the yen to get in the midst of action and capture it for the world to see, and this was triggered by the fact that I watched sports events regularly on TV.”
Al-Dabbagh said she did not face any difficulties in her career. She added: “All cooperated with me since my first job in the stadium in Bahrain. My presence was welcomed by all in Abha, including the players.
“All the Saudi football players welcomed me, especially captain Sami Al-Jaber, as did the other star Yasser Al-Qahtani, who said: ‘I’m pleased by your determination and ambition in this field. Continue and Allah will grant you success’.”
As to Saudi women storming the field of photography, especially sports photography, she said: “Gulf and Arab women can achieve a lot as long as there is honest competition among them. The future is for all. There is no difference between man and woman. Women only need self-confidence to prove themselves in this field.”
As to the reason for not participating in the Brazil Mundial despite participating in South Africa in 2010 and winning several prizes, Al-Dabbagh said: “It was a journey of accomplishment and pride (in South Africa).
I got the world’s attention with my presence there. It was a pride for me and my country. As for Brazil 2014, despite getting the approval for participation in it, I did not make it because there were fears for security reasons.”