Women defy rules in Somalia to play foot­ball

Viet Nam News - - LIFE&STYLE -

MO­GADISHU — Shortly af­ter sun­rise, a group of young women ar­rives at a foot­ball pitch in Mo­gadishu, where they shrug off their hi­jabs – some chang­ing un­derneath the bil­low­ing veil – to re­veal their team kit.

Young So­mali men stand nearby, some dis­ap­prov­ing but all watch­ing closely, as the women jog up and down, drib­ble a wornout ball be­tween colour­ful cones and do sit-ups, less than 200 me­tres from a heav­ily guarded se­cu­rity check­point.

The sight of young women play­ing foot­ball is highly un­usual in Somalia, due to so­ci­etal pres­sures as well as fear of Al-Shabaab.

The Al-Qaida-linked Is­lamist group launches reg­u­lar at­tacks in Mo­gadishu and con­sid­ers forms of en­ter­tain­ment, such as foot­ball, to be evil, worse still if women are in­volved.

“It is ob­vi­ous that we are scared de­spite the fact that we put on heavy clothes over our shorts and T-shirts (un­til) we get to the pitch. It is very dif­fi­cult to walk nor­mally with sports clothes – we never wear sports cloth­ing in so­ci­ety,” said Hibaq Ab­dukadir, 20, one of the foot­ball play­ers.

She is among 60 girls, who have signed up to train at the Golden Girls Cen­tre in Mo­gadishu, Somalia’s first fe­male foot­ball club.

Mo­hamed Abukar Ali, the 28year-old co­founder of the cen­tre, said he was in­spired to cre­ate the club af­ter he re­alised that Somalia had no fe­male foot­ball play­ers.

“We are ... try­ing to make these girls the first So­mali fe­male foot­ball pro­fes­sion­als,” he said.

How­ever this is not an easy task.

“When the girls have to at­tend train­ing ses­sions, we have to or­gan­ise to pick them up and bring them here and back home af­ter the ses­sion be­cause they are girls and we think about their se­cu­rity,” said Ali.

“There are so many chal­lenges, from se­cu­rity to lack of re­sources ... but that will not de­ter our am­bi­tion to es­tab­lish fe­male foot­ball clubs in this coun­try,” he said. “We be­lieve it is the right time and we should have the courage to think dif­fer­ently.”

Many of the girls who have joined the club said they had al­ways wanted to try play­ing foot­ball but never had the op­por­tu­nity.

“I have been play­ing foot­ball for seven months, but my fam­ily has only known about it for two months,” said So­had Mo­hamed, 19.

“I used to dodge my mother about where I was go­ing be­cause she would not al­low me to play foot­ball, but at least my mum is okay with it now, even though the rest of my fam­ily is not happy.”

In Somalia, it is ta­boo for women to ap­pear in pub­lic dressed in shorts, trousers or Tshirts, with Is­lamic schol­ars say­ing sports cloth­ing is not ap­pro­pri­ate Is­lamic dress for women.

The play­ers wear tights un­derneath their baggy shorts, and cover their hair, but still face crit­i­cism for their dress.

“I come to watch them train but frankly speak­ing, I would not be happy to see my sis­ter do­ing it, this is not good in so­ci­ety’s eyes be­cause they look naked,” said Yusuf Ab­di­rah­man, who lives near the soc­cer field.

Mo­hamed Yahye, an­other on­looker, is happy to see women play­ing foot­ball but is also con­cerned about how they are dressed.

“I think there is noth­ing wrong with women play­ing foot­ball, the only thing they should change is the dress code, they need to wear some­thing that is not slim-fit­ting. But as long as their body is not seen, they are in line with the Is­lamic dress codes,” he said.

How­ever the Golden Girls are not fazed.

“My am­bi­tion is so high that I aim for the same progress as those fe­male foot­ballers who play for Barcelona,” said Ab­dukadir. — AFP

Game chang­ers: So­mali foot­ball play­ers of Golden Girls Foot­ball Cen­tre, Somalia’s first fe­male soc­cer club, at­tend their train­ing ses­sion at Toyo sta­dium in Mo­gadishu, on March 5. — AFP Photo

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