Friday, May 14, 2010

Moroccan Female Soccer Players Fight Uphill Battle for Resources

Here is an interesting article/radio piece about struggling female soccer leagues in Morocco. It is from a Chicago Public Radio show called Worldview. Click on the title below if you would like to hear the story. The text is below. Worldview - Moroccan Female Soccer Players Fight Uphill Battle for Resources

In Moroccan society today female players who fought and won the right to play soccer have a new battle on their hands. They have a professional league, but they still lag far behind Morocco’s male players when it comes to the basics of the game- time, space and money.

Lisa Matuska reports from the Moroccan city of Casablanca that female football players today are entering the male-dominated field by the hundreds, and demanding a space to play.

Ambi soccer game

Saadia Salah is watching a local women’s football team- called Nassim- play a scrimmage. The team plays in Salah’s neighborhood of Sidi Moumen- a sprawling, low-income suburb of Casablanca.

ambi soccer game

A former player herself, Salah, 38, says when she played there were no girls teams. she would have to sneak out onto the field just to get in a few touches on the ball-

SALAH: the boys they would follow us throwing stones, when we would enter the field, they would climb the walls and throw rocks and we would stop playing, Then women wearing traditional clothing, they would peak over the wall and they would say, “come look come look,” they would call each other and just stare at us. We got embarrassed so we stopped. It was like they were kicking us out by just staring

Today many of the girls practicing here play in head scarves- wrapped extra tight, for sport. A group of boys huddles outside the fence, watching and criticizing almost every touch the girls make. Nassim is one of 24 teams in Morocco’s premier division for women’s football. The league began in 2004 and is run by the same federation as the men’s teams But Nassim’s coach Adil Farass says the women’s league is more disorganized.

FARASS: they told us this season there will be support but nothing has come, when we went to play Fqih Ben Salah we borrowed money for transport, today the referees came and we had to borrow money to pay them.

It’s difficult to compare the structure of men’s and women’s football in Morocco. Professional men’s football is supported by a youth structures like neighborhood teams, camps, and academies. Women’s football has no organizational youth structures. So when young girls want to play football, they have to join the boys in the streets.

JRAIDI: One day I was playing and Farass was with his boys team and he saw me play and came up to me and said, “you must play with my team, you play well and you have good skill” and from then on I was with him in Sidi Moumen.

Jraidi says now there are many more girls in the streets playing football.

JRAIDI: Now the problems are money, field, and the federation, we still haven’t gotten our stipend yet.

The stipend is small. Each women’s team gets 30 thousand dirham (that’s 4 thousand dollars) a year to cover costs like equipment, transportation and referees. If they have enough, the coaches try to give the girls extra money when they win. The men’s teams receive about twice that amount from the federation. Male players in the premier divisions typically have salaries that exceed what one girls’ team gets in a year.

Plus, the men’s teams get support from a well-established football industry- generating money from TV coverage, sponsorship and ticket sales. Girls’ teams in Morocco have looked for outside support, but few companies are lining up to sponsor them. Women’s games, which are free, don’t usually draw a crowd, let along a paying crowd.

Radio Mars show

Once a week on this daily sports radio show, Journalist Hassan Manyani covers women’s football - he interviews federation officials and coaches and people are calling in.

MANYANI: It’s the mentality around women and also it’s the federation which hardly manages to provide support or funds for the men’s leagues, so now there is a sort of awareness that it has to reorganize and develop women’s football but its coming, there is an awareness and this is already a good thing.

Officials from Morocco’s soccer federation did not make themselves available for this story, but Manyani predicts solutions will not come easily. One of the biggest obstacles is that most of these girls in the league are also still in high school. Men at their level are usually older, or don’t need to stay in school- for them football can be a job.

Soccer’s international regulating body, FIFA, held a symposium on women’s football three years ago. It said the next step to develop the sport is to have more women as referees, coaches and administrators.

BOUBIA: The Green Walker, This is my first team

Amel Boubia is a volunteer coach for the Nassim team.

BOUBIA: I wanted to play with Raja Ain Harouda but I stopped to practice football because I wanted to be a coach, I passed some course for football and now I coach team Nassim Hay Mohammadi.

She’s heard that this season the Moroccan federation is looking to give extra money for coach’s salaries for the women’s teams. But she’s skeptical. 37-year-old Boubia has an impressive resume in women’s sports: as a player and a coach she’s participated in women’s football camps all over Morocco. But Boubia says she still can’t find a salaried job in female sports. She uses herself as a cautionary tale.

BOUBIA: the girls must give importance for their study because the sport now is without salary and not job, you can practice sport only for your health and your feeling, not for a job.

Boubia also knows that as girls get older, more of them are pressured to leave the game by their families and society. And in her own job search now, she’s given up on Morocco- she’s practicing her English in hopes of finding a job outside the country. And that’s hard, because she sees something unique in the Nassim girls, and she’s like to continue to coach them.

BOUBIA: For the Nassim team, I think they have a good future because they’re all around the same age, they were born in 95, 94, 93 and they have potential, so hopefully they will do well.

Ambi sounds of Nassim game

On this morning Boubia watches as the team plays on a wet and rocky field. 18-year-old Ibtissam Jraidi is playing forward. While Jraidi’s playing, she isn't focused on the obstacles she’s overcome. She’s not thinking about advancing women's sport in a Muslim country, or giving confidence to young Moroccan girls. She says she’s here for another reason.

JRAIDI: Football, it’s mixed into my blood, I can’t spend a day without playing it.

And even the boys smirking behind the fence can’t argue with that one

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