Location: Cairo, Egypt
CUE: Egypt is an Arab and Islamic country with society largely governed by Islamic norms and tradition. It is an unlikely setting for women’s soccer to flourish. However, women’s soccer has made some inroads into this country that has dominated men’s soccer in Africa for years. A women’s football league has been in existence since the 1990s even if it faces some challenges and is still to rise to the level of its male counterpart.
Emmanuel Kele from southern Sudan travelled to Egypt and found out that women have challenged the Arabic and Islamic tradition by playing football and competing at the country’s clubs’ level.
FX: Egyptian football fans Dur: 00í03íí (Dip and play under and fade out)
LINK 1: These Egyptian fans are cheering at their national team in a match against Paraguay at the
2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup. The Egyptians lost 1-2 despite spirited home support in the Cairo International Stadium.
Football in Egypt is a passionate game dominated by men. Now women are challenging that male dominance as well as Islamic and traditional norms that frown against women taking part in such activities. Women running around in football shorts would be unthinkable in most Islamic countries, including some of Egypt’s Arab neighbours.
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LINK 2: Women’s Football in Egypt was started in the mid-1990s by Sahar Al Hawari who is now a member of the Football Association. Since then, some women have even adopted football as a career.
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LINK 3: About ninety per cent of the Egyptians are Muslim although the country generally practices a liberal form of Islam.
Wadi Degla Football Club is based on the outskirts of Cairo about an hour’s drive from the capital. Degla has become a leading wome’ís local club in the country, winning the premier league twice.
Coach Mohammed Khamal accuses the local media of playing a negative role in the effort to popularise women’s football in Egypt. He adds that society in general is not against women playing football:
CLIP 1 (25sec) Wadi Degla Coach in Arabic
“No, there are no problems here. Our ladies cover their heads when they play, and wearing shorts is normal to them. Their parents understand and we have no problem with them. We try to make sure training does not extend late into the night. We are also very conscious about good behaviour and religious values and we observe these.”
LINK 4: For the young female players of Wadi Degla, the issue is that of wider support for women’s football. They hope that one day things will change and female football will receive as much popular support as does the men’s game.
VOX-POP: (39sec)Female footballers
FIRST VOICE: It is very important because they will help the game noticed-the media will of course will us very much and I will try to create like soccer schools in very club possibly.
SECOND VOICE: Like the society, they didn’t accept that all, but then I realized that it was the entire world that didn’t accept it, because it was still a new game to the world-lets say for example, Belgium people were first astonished when female soccer started but then gradually and eventually they accepted the terms that girls can actually play football.
LINK 5: Twenty-one-year-old Merhani Yahya Ali, who plays as a centre forward for the Wadi Degla club, is one of the best female players in the Egypt. She urges the Egyptian society to support female footballers in the country:
CLIP 2 (17sec) Merhani
“There is way with this kind of attention-we need help from the society, we need help from the people who are in charge, we need help from everybody even the media.”
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LINK 6: Religious groups have so far withheld open support for women’s football but it was not possible to obtain their comment for this story.
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Women in Egypt do watch football in stadiums, and many hope the men will equally troop in to cheer and support women’s teams.
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