In Somalia, women defy strict rules to play football

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Somali football players of Golden Girls Football Center, Somalia’s first female soccer club, attend their training session at Toyo stadium in Mogadishu, on March 5, 2018. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
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Somali football players of Golden Girls Football Center, Somalia’s first female soccer club, attend their training session at Toyo stadium in Mogadishu, on March 5, 2018. The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabab. The Golden Girls Football Center which was founded by local NGO in 2017 and currently has about 60 players, has aim to provide opportunities for Somali women to play football hoping to encourage them, in the future, to be national women’s football team players. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
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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, 2018. The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabaab. The Golden Girls Football Centre which was founded by local NGO in 2017 and currently has about 60 players, has aim to provide opportunities for Somali women to play football hoping to encourage them, in the future, to be national women’s football team players. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
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Aisha Alli, 25, a Somali football player of Golden Girls Football Center, Somalia’s first female soccer club, watches a match during a training session at Toyo stadium in Mogadishu, on March 5, 2018. The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabab. The Golden Girls Football Center which was founded by local NGO in 2017 and currently has about 60 players, has aim to provide opportunities for Somali women to play football hoping to encourage them, in the future, to be national women’s football team players. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
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Somali football players of Golden Girls Football Center, Somalia’s first female soccer club, attend their training session at Toyo stadium in Mogadishu, on March 5, 2018. The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabab. The Golden Girls Football Center which was founded by local NGO in 2017 and currently has about 60 players, has aim to provide opportunities for Somali women to play football hoping to encourage them, in the future, to be national women’s football team players. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
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Somali football players of Golden Girls Football Center, Somalia’s first female soccer club, attend their training session at Toyo stadium in Mogadishu, on March 5, 2018. The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabab. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
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Somali football players of Golden Girls Football Center, Somalia’s first female soccer club, drink water during their training session at Toyo stadium in Mogadishu, on March 5, 2018. The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabab. The Golden Girls Football Center which was founded by local NGO in 2017 and currently has about 60 players, has aim to provide opportunities for Somali women to play football hoping to encourage them, in the future, to be national women’s football team players. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
Updated 21 March 2018
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In Somalia, women defy strict rules to play football

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 worn-out ball between colorful cones and do sit-ups, less than 200 meters (656 feet) 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-Shabab.
The Al-Qaeda 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 footballers.
She is among 60 girls, who have signed up to train at the Golden Girls Center in Mogadishu, Somalia’s first female soccer club.
Mohamed Abukar Ali, the 28-year-old co-founder of the center, said he was inspired to create the club after he realized that Somalia had no female footballers.
“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 organize 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 T-shirts, 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 football 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.


Pau Pogba hits out at Jose Mourinho’s tactics

Updated 39 min 30 sec ago
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Pau Pogba hits out at Jose Mourinho’s tactics

  • French midfielder has an uneasy relationship with the Manchester United boss.
  • Pogba wants to see the Reds attack more often.

MANCHESTER: Paul Pogba launched a blistering critique of Manchester United’s defensive-minded tactics in Saturday’s draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers, which is likely to infuriate manager Jose Mourinho.
The 25-year-old French World Cup winning midfielder said there were no excuses for not attacking in home games.
The draw — played out in front of legendary former manager Alex Ferguson who made his first appearance at a match since undergoing emergency brain surgery in May — left United in seventh, eight points behind leaders Liverpool.
“We are at home and we should play much better against Wolves. We are here to attack,” Pogba said.
“When we play like (that) it’s easier for us.”
Asked what is stopping United attacking more, Pogba said: “I can’t tell you because I’m a player. It’s not me.”
Pogba’s criticism comes shortly after it appeared that he and Mourinho were mending their rift, with the Portuguese manager saying on Friday that success at the World Cup had sparked Pogba into performing well.
Pogba, who hasn’t lived up to expectations since his then world record £89 million ($116 million) move from Juventus in 2016, had been angered by Mourinho’s remarks in July that he had played much better at the World Cup because he was not surrounded by his entourage.
“I think teams are scared when they see Manchester United attacking and attacking. That was our mistake,” said Pogba.
“Maybe the attitude should be better and we should play better because, again, we are at Old Trafford and we should just attack and press like we did against Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal last season.”
Pogba laughed when it was put to him were United lacking pace and mobility.
“I’m not the manager, I cannot say that,” he said.
“Obviously we should show more options but I cannot say that because I’m a player.
“That’s my way of thinking — we should move better, yeah.”