Player Profile | Introducing Esraa Awad, Egypt

Esraa joins the Equal Playing Field squad from Egypt. Esraa has played professionally since the age of 15 and was named Egyptian Footballer of the Year in 2010 with four Premier League titles under her belt. She has represented Egypt at the national level and participated in the African Cup of Nations last year. Here she tells us why she’s still fighting to level the playing field.

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I was born and raised in Kuwait and was only 4 years old when I started to play football. When I was 12 I captained the boys football team - which was not easy. The boys on the team did not like a girl captaining the team. They only accepted me when I proved myself to be one of the best. I learned from a very young age that I will face a lot of obstacles being a girl - a girl who not only plays football, but a girl who actually plays better than a lot of boys too. But this just gave me more strength to carry on and made me understand that if I do not believe in myself than no one will.

I often see comments on social media telling me to “'go back to the kitchen". Everyone is starting to wonder when I will get married. Nine times out of ten interviewers will ask me if I’m not married because I play football.

Football is my passion. When I play, I feel free and that there are no limits.

The first time I played for the national team I felt like I was on the top of the world. It was something I dreamed of since I was 8 years old - a dream come true for me. My family was so proud and from that moment on football (for them and for me) went to a whole new level. We have many years of frustration because as a national team we haven't achieved much yet, but the highlight of my career was beating the Ivory Coast and qualifying for the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 18 years. Years of fighting finally paid off.

“Playing football as a Middle Eastern woman is - in and of itself - an act of advocacy”.

The key to making changes possible is for all women to fight for the same goal and not give up. One day, there will be equality. My family has always been very supportive. My father and my older brother were always proud of me and how talented I was and helped me get better. My sisters and my mother were also very supportive and are incredible advocates for women’s rights themselves.  I am climbing to honor the memory of my late sister, Nouran. She passed away just a couple of months ago. She always believed in me, and always encouraged me. My mother brought us up to make the best out of anything that comes our way and after this tragedy, I have made the choice to come out of this  as a stronger woman and a better human being. Climbing this mountain with other exceptional women will be a stepping stone in recovering from my grief.

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