"We have to wait. I am afraid of their reaction, if we push too hard," said Rawh Abdullah, a captain of a female soccer team in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. "We risk being shut down completely, and I do not want to reach a dead end because of impatience."
Also, she added, she and her teammates simply "are not ready to compete on such level" because they cannot train properly.
Abdullah has given up her career as a teacher to run the all-women soccer club Al Tahaddi, Arabic for challenge. Since 2006, when the club was established, 25 team members meet four times a week to play after turning one of the players' gardens into a field.
The 28-year-old Abdullah, who serves as a coach and the captain on the team, charges each member 1,300 riyals ($350) annual fee to play. The money she gets covers players outfits, balls, makeshift goals, some fitness equipment and partly also trips to the port city of Jeddah or Dammam to play exhibition games or matches in the clandestine women's league.
There are no written laws that prohibit women from participating in sports, but women are not allowed into stadiums, and they cannot rent athletic venues. There is no physical education for girls in public schools, and no women-only hours at swimming pools. The few gyms that admit women are too expensive for most to frequent.
Women cannot register sports clubs, league competitions and other female-only tournaments with the government. They are banned from entering all-male national trials, which makes it impossible for them to qualify for international competitions, including the Olympics.
Female athletes like Abdullah fear that sending inadequately prepared athletes to the London Games could do more harm than good to their cause of making sports "part of our lifestyle" and achieve change for millions of women, who's public lives are severely restricted in the kingdom.