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In Somalia, women battle strict rules to do what they love – play football

Women in Somalia are using football to battle oppression and gender bias. In the city of Mogadishu, around 60 girls have signed up to train at the Golden Girls Centre, the first female football club in the country. The women, who come out to play football, are battling societal pressures and fear of the militant group Al-Shabaab, in a city where Al-Qaeda linked Islamist group has regularly launched attacks and believe all forms of women football to be the work of evil.
Islamist group launches regular attacks in Mogadishu and considers forms of entertainment, such as football, to be evil, even worse if you’re a woman. “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 footballers to AFP. Speaking about her ambition, she added, “My ambition is so high that I aim for the same progress as those female footballers who play for Barcelona.”
The co-founder of the training center, Mohamed Abukar Ali, added that he has to take care of the security of all those women who come to play. “We are… trying to make these girls the first Somali female football professionals. 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,” Ali was quoted as saying by the news agency.
“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. We believe it is the right time and we should have the courage to think differently,” he added.
Sohad Mohamed, another woman footballer talked about battling with the taboo of playing football. “I have been playing football for seven months, but my family has only known about it for two months. 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,” she said.
The women who remove their hijab, wear tights underneath their shorts and cover their hair while playing football are often criticised for wearing sports jerseys while playing the sport.
“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,” Yusuf Abdirahman, a resident of Mogadishu said.
Mohamed Yahye further questioned the dressing. “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.
According to latest FIFA rankings, as released on March 15, 2018, Somalia’s men’s team are ranked at the bottom joint-206th position.

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