Home » Coach Sarah Edward for Change: Islamists Were Banning Women’s Football and Accepting the Money of FIFA
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Coach Sarah Edward for Change: Islamists Were Banning Women’s Football and Accepting the Money of FIFA

Players vie for the ball during the Sudanese Women Football League match between Tahadi (green) and Difaa (yellow), in the capital Khartoum on September 30, 2019. - Within months of Sudan's first women's football league kicking off, the championship's emerging stars are being hailed as icons for equal rights in a country transitioning to civilian rule. Once a football pioneer, it joined FIFA in 1948 and co-founding the Confederation of African Football with Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Africa at a meeting in Khartoum in 1957. But women's football faced an uphill battle after the country adopted the Islamic sharia law in 1983, six years before then-brigadier Bashir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup. (Photo by Ashraf SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images)

* Did you start your sports activity in football directly?

I played volleyball at the Comboni School in Khartoum and the Olympic because the options available to girls were limited, and I also tried athletics and played basketball with the Mars team, handball and others, I loved football and practiced it with children boys in the street, in 2001 the late Joseph Scopas founded the challenge team, and when the Sudanese Federation approved the establishment of women’s football, the challenge team was formed and I was the deputy captain Thuraya Al-Daw and I became the leader of the team, after that and then I turned into a coach for the challenge after I took training courses.

The family was very supportive of my career, my father was a great athlete.

* How was the role of the family?

The family was very supportive of my career, my father was a great athlete who played basketball, volleyball, etc., then became a coach and finally worked in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, he was one of my strong supporters and always warned me of injuries, my mother was practicing sports in schools and was not rejecting my career, but supportive on the condition that I am not late in training and doing school and home duties, in 2007 when I first participated outside Sudan in South Africa, they did not object to my travel and were pleased with me and my career.

* How did the formation of the challenge team begin?

Assembling the girls from the Comboni School to form a team was not difficult due to the availability of all sports activities for both sexes and the presence of stadiums, but we suffered from the problem of sports equipment, we only played one football and we were 51 girls.

* What happened next?

After the passage of time, fatwas appeared that football for girls is not permissible and does not resemble customs and traditions, and we felt pressure after society became against us, and we came to the field to be surprised that others were training, although we booked in advance, and the Football Federation did not sponsor and support us, and we had to rent a stadium in the city of Bahri from our own expenses while we were students.

Q: Were you harassed by the state during the era of the former regime?

The Islamists withdrew a club from us, chased us with the security men, confiscated tapes belonging to Al-Jazeera, which aired an episode with us, and finally in 2007 we were allowed to train in the stadium of the Sudanese Football Association Academy.

The existence of a women’s league in Sudan is one of the fruits of the revolution

Q: How do you see the experience of the women’s league in Sudan?

The experience began professionally in 2019 and I was not in Sudan at that time after leaving the country, I was very happy to have a women’s league and consider it one of the fruits of the revolution, during the days of the former regime, Islamists used to say that the customs of the Islamic State prevent girls from playing, however, they used to take the financial support provided by (FIFA) and allocated to women’s football, the league was established with rapid steps and I always repeated that the activity of girls will extend outside Sudan and after achieving the dream I was far away and shed tears, and before that I had a supporting project I traveled to a number of states inside Sudan to hold training workshops for all ages and I was paid from my personal money and the help of friends, in general I consider the women’s league a very successful experience and a victory for Sudanese women and I am proud of that.

Q: What was the view of society but as girls practicing a difficult sport?

Some people used to consider that the girl who plays football as a male and not a female, and they were waving customs, traditions and religion, we withstood in the beginnings that we knew were difficult, we refused to break and yet we say that the whole society was not against us, but we had supporters, especially by coaches who were credited and forgot the names of some of them for the long time, some of them were sharing with us the visit of the girls’ families constantly to convince them to allow their daughters to play.

The women’s league is a successful experience and a victory for Sudanese women and I am proud of that

Q: You had a short experience in Germany, tell us about it?

In my experience with the Discovery team, they used to attract female athletes, including coaches, players and media every two years, and I participated with them on behalf of the challenge team in 2016 and introduced them to Sudan and players in the team, and the cooperation extended with them and I had a second experience with them for a short time.

* What are the main difficulties you faced in training abroad?

The first problem I faced in training outside Sudan was the language problem, most of the players in Germany and France do not speak English, I found a French club in the second division and the coach suggested to me to play and I apologized because I was injured in the “ankle” and then I started learning French and offered my services to a club without salary as a trainee, and then I joined another club on a one-year contract and I am happy with my current experience with this club and other clubs of organizations that I supervise in some categories.

What about your current career and future goals?

In my professional life I am still in the field of training and I am working on developing myself to discover them and study languages to expand the areas of knowledge keys while studying training courses in the field of football and related fields and always looking for the new.

Source: Al-Taghyeer