Palestine is to have a referee at the FIFA World Cup for the first time ©Getty Images

Heba Saadia is to become the first Palestinian international football referee to officiate at the FIFA Women's World Cup, also becoming one of the first Arab woman to achieve this feat.

She was previously selected as part of the team to officiate matches at the 2022 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup in Vietnam, and officiated Women's Asian Cup matches in India last year.

Saadia started refereeing at the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp, where she was born to Palestinian parents and continued to specialise in sports when she studied in Damascus at university, in physical education.

"I was watching a group of referees train and noticed they had no women among them," said Saadia last year in an interview with Palestine TV Sports and Youth Channel .

"When I asked them about it, they suggested I join them, so I did."

Saadia worked with the Syrian Football Association as a fourth official at first, but was forced to move to Malaysia in 2012, when the civil war in the country broke out.

After working with the Football Association of Malaysia, she moved again to begin working with the Swedish Football Federation, where she received her international refereeing badge in 2016.

The FIFA Women's World Cup is to be held in Australia and New Zealand later this year ©Getty Images
The FIFA Women's World Cup is to be held in Australia and New Zealand later this year ©Getty Images

Firas Abu Hilal, secretary general of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), said she is the first Palestinian to officiate at the World Cup.

"She is also one of the first Arab female referees to participate in an official tournament at this level, and she has proven the ability of Palestinian women to excel in any field," said Hilal.

"Saadia was selected after a lot of blood and tears on her end. 

"She managed to gain great experience in the field of physical fitness and officiating soccer matches, in coordination with the PFA. 

"She is a role model for Palestinian women who aspire to achieve success and greatness."

Saadia is to work at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, scheduled to take place from July 20 to August 20.