Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Football for women over 35

While all eyes were glued to the screen watching the 2018 World Cup, women over 35 years old were teaming up to play football in Alexandria, reports Ameera Fouad

 

Football for women
Football for women

The new football season is right around the corner. While some teams already have their rookies at training camps getting ready for the Egyptian season, female teams are hoping to find a way for one of their own clubs, which was nothing more than a pipe dream, to fully mature.

There is a real craze of football in Egypt after the country participated in Russia’s World Cup following a 28-year absence from the world’s biggest football stage. Despite its early defeat in the first round, Egypt will never stop watching football and people in Egypt have never stopped loving football. With this mania, women of all ages are getting obsessed with football more than ever. This was the spark which led Alexandria Smouha Sporting Football Club to create its first ladies football team – on condition that the players are not less than 35 years old.

“Women who chose to play who chose to defeat inequality and who chose to be number one”: this is the slogan of the first women’s football team in Smouha which decided that age should not be a barrier and that obesity is not an obstacle. Despite their differences, they all agreed on one thing: to play football no matter what, where and how.

“We all share our happiness when we score a goal and when we just play to different tactics at every training,” Manal Abdel-Zaher, in her forties, told Al-Ahram Weekly

Abdel-Zaher has been playing for around two years. She was one of the pioneers who pushed the club’s administration to create a team for women who are over 35. She plays as a defender and sometimes goalkeeper.

“I loved football since my early childhood. I used to play with the boys in school. However, as a kid I was constantly told that girls should not play football.

“When I grew up and became a mother, when I used to take my son to football practice, I became much fonder of the sport and this is when I decided to play,” Abdel-Zaher added.

It is not only about losing weight or getting in shape which encouraged these women to join a sport as difficult and tough as football. It was rather about the kind of fun football creates and the play which can mingle between humour, interest and winning.

“This team changed my life,” Marwa Abdel-Meguid, a mother of two, said. “I used to play at the gym almost one hour a week but it was very boring as you try to force yourself to go. But football is different. I think now of scoring and of shooting goals and how to play a good match,” Abdel-Meguid, who is already a working mom, added. “With all the stress around us at work and at home, we need to let it go and just play.”

The idea of having a female football team over 35 started when the club held Ramadan tournaments for women in 2015. The club’s administration was very surprised to find many females considered over-age joining and creating teams and competing with others. “The following year we had the same scenario and there were many calls to create this kind of team,” Dalia Abul-Enein, the female football team’s administrator, said.

The team is one of a kind in Egypt as it embraces women of different ages and of various backgrounds. Most of them are mothers who used to watch their children playing football accompanying them to practise, summer camps and tournaments.

“This is how they came along together. From sitting on a bench waiting for their sons to finish their training, to mothers who are playing football with their kids,” added Abul-Enein.

“Without a club vision, we could have never done it. Without the club’s support, we would not have been able to continue but now we have something to do and something we are looking forward to every couple of days. Now, when I miss any training session, I feel horrible, as though I missed a lot,” Sahar Mazen, the team’s forward, said.

“Not many people know we play for free and that the club supports us in everything. They provide the place, the trainers, the medical consultants and even a healthy diet for all of us.

“I never imagined my club standing right behind me and supporting us in such a way. It is not only a sport. It is a well-established loving community,” Mazen added.

While Farag Amer, Smouha president, has turned the club’s male football team into one of the strongest in the Egyptian league, he applied the same strategy to the women who want to play.

“Sports is not only about competition but about supporting any member to be at his or her best. This is the strategy of Smouha Club,” Eman Gaber, Smouha football club board member, said.

“What we need the most is to have many clubs competing. We want to see other women from other clubs joining football teams and the platform would be open for all women of all ages.”

“Football is easy to play. You just have to get a ball and run and play with it. I think this is why females find it alluring. In addition, it helps greatly in losing weight,” Gaber added.

The board members have encouraged females to play in every sport. Khaireya Al-Sokkari, deputy board member who stood behind boosting female dreams to make it possible, turned these female dreams into a real team.

“We all stop at the age of 20 or 30 when pregnancy and marriage take over many households or we’re busy with work so we stop looking after ourselves. But what we didn’t know is that when we are happy, all those around us also shine,” captain of the team and the club’s trainer Susan Diab, 29, said.

 

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