Girls training for football in Aweil

21 Aug 2013

Girls training for football in Aweil

21 August2013 - A group of girls in Aweil, Northern Bahr El-Ghazal State, are honing their football skills to overcome community biases that they are ill-suited for the game.

The team was set up in June by Aweil Academy Primary School teacher James Mercy, who wanted to help the girls develop their talents in football and other sports for future use.

"I want them to grow spiritually, mentally and physically," Mr. Mercy said of the team, which has drawn 38 girls from various town schools.

But as the first of its kind in the state, the team has sparked community prejudice about girls and football.

"People say 'Why do you like to play football?' or 'Football is not good because it can (damage) ... virginity'," said team member Diana Ajak Deng.

Ms. Deng insisted that football was good for the players and their communities. "Our counties are behind, and we want to develop them in many ways, (including) through ... football.''

Others have said girls should not play football, as it is only meant for boys, according to team member Mary Adit Marach.

"If you play football ... you can be comfortable in yourself and you will know how to run and everything. That is why I practice,'' she said.

Even the team's trainer, Maniraho Assumani Roly, an UNMISS vehicle technician, was a bit hesitant at first.

"I was somehow reluctant when the girls came and told me that they wanted to play, but now it is going very well and more girls in other schools are even asking me to go and train them," said Mr. Roly.

Another challenge the team faces is a lack of needed items like t-shirts, shorts, shoes and balls.

Mr. Roly has been assisting through his own resources and by asking for donations. UNMISS Aweil recently gave the girls 15 Radio Miraya t-shirts.