65) Play Like a Girl

As a child, I fell in love with football. I don’t think that I chose to play football, I think football chose me to play it. I was born in a small town in Kurdistan. I was born in a society where most of the families want boys. So my parents always wanted to have  boy, so they kept trying. We were six girls and one boy. I was the last one in the family, I am the youngest. I was six years old when I started to played football. I did not know it was football, it was just something I liked to do and I wanted to do. I was the only girl playing football with boys in the streets. Despite being the only girl among boys on the field, my passion for the sport was unwavering. I wanted the other girls to also play, but because of the gender stereotypes and the boxes they put us in, we were in different positions in our lives. I kept playing football until I was twelve years old. When I was born, my family… I don’t remember whether I chose to wear boy clothes or whether they made me wear it because they  always wanted a boy, but I think they made me wear boy clothes. And when I was twelve they told me: ‘Stop playing football, because you are a girl’. So they wanted me to be a boy, but when it was time that the society can see it is a girl, when she is growing, then no, you stop and you stop playing football. I stopped playing until I was 18. And I think if the society or my family would have let me play, I would be in a different position, have maybe a different career. I would maybe be a football player.

Instead, I started playing again when I was 18, just easy as a hobby with my friends. That was when my family and I had to flee from Sinjar where it was attacked by ISIS and then flee to Duhok, which was a bigger city and more open then the small town I lived in. There I got to know people and started playing football with friends and finally some females. Family and societal pressures didn’t dampen my spirit anymore. That let me to start working with NGOs in the field of sports for development. I am now a person that works using sport, football, to gather people together and to make a small effect in the world. I found solace in supporting women in sports. Together, we’re fighting to change the male-dominated landscape, offering a beacon of hope for a more inclusive world.