By Fawzi Adam
Because girls from my culture don’t like to play sport in front of men, when I saw a report on WIN News about a Shepparton school running a soccer group just for girls, it really grabbed my attention.
They hold their program in the gym at McGuire College and close the doors so that the girls can feel free. Emma Crew, the woman hosting it, said that they started it because they have a really multicultural school and lots of the girls don’t want to play in front of men.
The school is letting girls wear headscarves and long skirts to play or whatever clothes they feel comfortable in, she said.
Emma said, “We have about 15 girls participating in the program at the moment. About 10 of these girls are Sudanese and the rest come from Iraqi, Afghani and Turkish backgrounds.”
It’s such a good idea to see that the Sudanese community in Shepparton is supporting this school’s effort to let girls have more freedom in sport.
I asked her when she started this program. Emma said, “The idea started a couple of months ago but we waited until the end of Ramadan to begin so that no girls would feel left out. I felt that there were a lot of girls who wanted to play games on the oval at lunch times but the boys would steal their balls or some girls just don’t feel comfortable running around in front of boys.”
I asked her if she thought the program was fruitful or if it was just wasting time. She responded, “The girls really enjoy it and that is the whole point, really. Some of the girls are talking about joining local competitions to play which is something they never would have done before.
“I think it is really about building their confidence and, with time, hopefully an acceptance of girls in sport will spread throughout the different ethnic communities in Shepparton.”
On Saturdays I sometimes go with my wife and my son to watch junior soccer. One of the players is a Sudanese boy named Rama. He is very good at playing soccer and he got the most goals in the Shepparton Junior Soccer Association this year. When I watch him, I hope that skilled kids get to play sport. It is good to keep them fit and healthy especially because these days, kids eat so much junk food. It is good to give them opportunities to play what they want so they will enjoy it.
There are lots of different sports and clubs in Australia. Many women play sport here, much more than in Sudan. One reason why Sudanese women might not want to play sport is because they don’t like to play sport with men.
I hope the Sudanese parents let their kids choose what their children should play and encourage them to participate. I feel proud to see Sudanese boys like Rama playing well. I hope that I will see the Sudanese community in Shepparton and the whole country watching Sudanese girls doing well in sports too. They should get a chance to play.