Player Profile | Sasha Andrews, Canada

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Meet Sasha Andrews from Canada. Seasoned Canadian women’s national team representative with three world cups under her belt, here she tells us how football has been the golden thread of her life, and why “giving back” makes up so much of life right now.

To support Sasha and the other Equal Playing Field players, please visit visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/

 

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada and had a dream to be like my dad - and that meant soccer. I played with my two brothers in the backyard barefoot - we must have ruined my mother's garden and my father's fence over and over again as soccer never stopped. I soon joined the boys’ team coached by my dad and that is where a little seed was planted in me that I had to water.

I play football because football chose me. My dream to be a pro came sooner than I thought, when I was selected to represent Canada at 15 years old and it continued - with the seniors, through college, and then in professional leagues around the globe.

 

Football is my tool, it is my passion, it runs through my life. I have played 30 years, been to 3 world cups, 1 Olympics, I’ve played in Norway, Australia, Sweden and Iceland and here in North America. I got a full Division 1 scholarship and soccer paved that way for me to be educated with 2 degrees. My grandmother still follows soccer to this day - she thinks she might still see me on TV!

To play for Canada was a childhood dream and when I got to be on national duty for the first time and feel our Canada soccer logo on my chest I was so honored to be representing my country and my family on a world stage. From that day on in 1999 until 2011 I felt the fire and pride I had for my country. My first World Cup was 2002 - I scored the winning penalty in penalty shoot-out against Brazil putting us into our very first ever World Cup final. It was in my home town so I became the hero in front of 50-60,000 fans. It still gives me chills. My brother who passed as well as my other brother Dorian were there – wearing a shirt with my pic on it saying “Proud brothers of Sasha Andrews”. A memory for life!

Today I still play with men but encounter the same story - the guys never pass to me until I prove myself. The discrimination is frustrating because it is consistent. I joined a men's league here in California. I was just as good as the guys, but it was so trying to hear the constant put downs, the constant sexist talk. One day, a ref refused to officiate the game if I was on the pitch. Even though my team stuck up for me I wasn’t allowed to play. The league later threatened my team with being kicked out if they carried on fielding me.

 

In the end, they won. I was banned.

 

Later, I joined a woman’s team just to play and enjoy being the little girl that originally that fell in love with game. Soon I started hearing that I was “too good” and should “go back to my own kind”. I was later kicked out –I got an emailing telling me the league wouldn’t allow pros to play.

 

In the end, they won. I was banned.

 

So – how will we realize equality if there is so much judgement and fear and distrust on both sides?


Equality to me is living beyond the edge of discrimination, judgment and fear to be whoever you are all the time. When you ask a child whose mind is at its purist, there are no ethnic, social, economic, religious, or cultural boundaries. Sport creates bridges and breaks down barriers. Sport teaches you teamwork, empathy and respect, it creates a strong sense of morality and appreciation for differences and community. If we can use sport to get to this place, we will shine - we will give hope where there is despair and love where there is hate. I believe in giving back and now my life is about that. I am a PE teacher where I spread my love for the game and its deeply rooted life lessons to my kids.

 

 

Despite all the incredible experiences I have had over 30 years of playing soccer, climbing this mountain and breaking a world record is paramount to anything I have accomplished in my career. Being part of this project for me is the living light of my universe right now, as a soccer player but also as a world citizen.

 

The ball is shaped like the world and the game makes the world go round. Football is equality because anyone can play - all you need is one ball.

 

To support Sasha and the other Equal Playing Field players, please visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/ To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com

Coach Profile | Kim Smith, USA

Meet one of our coaches Kim Smith, who was selected for the US U-19National Team Pool, played abroad in the L League in Japan, Bundesliga in Germany and in the US in the W-League for the Raleigh Wings and Sacramento Storm.  She tells us the powerful sense of responsibility she has as a coach of teenage girls and why, in her words, “Football saved my life”.

To support the Equal Playing Field players, please visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/

 

Football gave me an ineffable sense of freedom, joy and connectivity.

I grew up in a military family, so we moved every one or two 2 years. I lived in Germany, Korea and six states within the US by the time I graduated high school. Sport was the only real constant in my life and enabled me to fit in and connect with a new environment and my peers.  Although I played all sports, I fell in love with soccer at the age of 6 and have been playing ever since. 

I played at the U-19 national team level in the US, then continued on to play at the University of Virginia.  When I graduated, I wanted to continue to play football. At that time, there wasn’t a professional league in the US for women, so I traveled overseas to play in the L-League in Honjo, Japan (FC Wins). Coincidentally, they trained on a dirt field just like the dirt fields I played on as a teenager in Korea. The pay was good, but the level was lower than what I expected, the town, small and isolated.

Later I played for FC Saarbrucken in the Bundesliga in Germany and the pay was just enough to live on. The level of play was great, but I had to advocate for my pay as it didn’t come regularly, which created challenges that affected my quality of play. In hindsight, it was ironic that I was playing in state-of-the-art Bundesliga stadiums, but could only afford to eat ketchup and pasta.

The teams I played on provided me with incredible experiences and a global perspective - but seeing the disparity in pay and resources between the men and women challenged my professional value and sustainability in a sport I loved.

I have been a high school coach in Los Angeles for the past 12 years and am currently at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles. Our mission is to empower future female leaders and I see this challenge as an opportunity to be an example to my players. This experience I can bring to our training field, where I get to guide and inspire them to discover their voices, tap into their strengths, push their limits, and work together to create change and greater opportunity for themselves and those following close behind.

I also have two nieces who are under the age of 10 and play football. I would love nothing more than to make the bridge wider for them and the path smoother. My hope is that girls have the opportunity to play sports on an equal playing field and be afforded the gift of being a part of a team, experiencing its greatest joys and opportunities.

Football saved my life. Being a shy kid and in a constant state of change, I was able to find my voice on the field.  And in times of struggle and adversity as an adult, it’s the voices I met on the field that have led me to a greater purpose. This is one of the many joys of football:  friendship, connection, and opportunity.

I see this Altitude Football challenge as an opportunity to give back to a sport that continues to enrich my life. Working together with a team of women, I will be stretching my own personal limits and creating awareness for something greater than myself – equality within sport.

To support the Equal Playing Field players, please visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/

 

Equal Playing Field grateful to International General Insurance for sponsorship

PRESS RELEASE

London/Amman/Melbourne | June 3 2017

Equal Playing Field welcomes the financial support provided by IGI to support football clinics being run in Jordan after the attempt to break a world record with a soccer match at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro this month. Players from more than 20 nationalities will step out on a temporary pitch at more than 18,000 ft to play a full 90 minutes FIFA regulation game. To ensure the impact is sustainable, football clinics will be run in more than ten countries around the world after the climb to ensure more women and girls have the opportunity to try out soccer.

Mr. Wasef Jabsheh, IGI CEO & Vice Chairman said “IGI is an equal opportunity employer with a firm conviction to women empowerment. Equal Playing Field challenges gender disparity in sports, and sheds light on the under-support of girls and women in athletics. IGI hopes by sponsoring the Guinness World Record Altitude Football Game on Mt. Kilimanjaro by an all-women team, that it will help to promote equality, respect and opportunity, for female athletes across the globe.” 

Find out more about International General Insurance (IGI) here.

For more information on the record-breaking attempt, see www.equalplayingfield.com.

There remain a number of sponsorship opportunities. For more details please contact equalplayingfield2017@gmail.com 

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For interviews

Erin Blankenship, Co-Founder | Amman UTC+3 | +962 7 9836 5212 | erinebsa@gmail.com

Maggie Murphy, Head of Communications |London UTC+1 |+44 751 7707 565 | mmurphyiw@gmail.com

Player Profile | Zahra Mahmoodi, Afghanistan

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Meet Zahra Mahmoodi from Afghanistan. Here she gives a very honest account of her life growing up and how she never ended her dream to play football and what she has done to ensure it doesn’t remain a dream for other girls.

To support Zahra and the other Equal Playing Field players, please visit visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/

 

I was born 26 years ago in Iran as an Afghan refugee in a neighborhood where many Afghan refugee families were living who were forced to leave Afghanistan due to war and armed conflicts. I started working from the age of 7 because even though my father was working in 2 or 3 jobs at the same time he was receiving very low wages for hard labour in poor working environments. First I and my siblings were packaging electric tapes at home after school and I remember my hands were always full of glue - which, aside from my physical appearance that marked me out as different to the other kids, gave another reason to be discriminated against by some of my Iranian classmates and teachers. But I was happy and thankful that I was able to go to school while many other refugee kids could not.

I fell in love with soccer when I was 9 years old and became a huge fan of Manchester United. On my way to school I would see boys playing soccer everywhere, but I could not think of anywhere I could play. When our school built a handball field I told some of my classmate “let’s play soccer in it, I know the rules” and we started playing every morning before school. But soon after, the school administration warned us that they will kick us out if we play soccer again because apparently it was not appropriate for the girls to play. Soccer was just for boys.

One of our teachers advised us to sign for a private club in a gym where we might be able to play. But Afghan refugees were not welcomed in the club and even if the door hadn’t been closed in my face I would not have been able to afford it.

It broke my heart and I tried to say goodbye to the dream of playing but could not. The economic situation of our family did not become any better and suddenly my father decided that we should sew soccer balls at home to sell in the market. During the day we sewed soccer balls and at night my sister and I would stay in our little workshop to pump and clean the balls.

That was the first time I could play with a ball away from the critical eyes of society. In 2004, when I was 14, my school decided to refuse us entry – even thought we had the right documentation. Despite the fact that there were so many health, security and education challenges to overcome right after the fall of Taliban, we decided we should retun to Afghanistan.

Back in Kabul, I made friends very quickly and started teaching them how to play soccer. We had no soccer field, so we made goals with rocks and played on the school’s dusty yard. Many of my friends have never run or laughed out loud before as it was considered inappropriate for the girls. The girls loved this game and wanted to play it more often.

After about a year we learned that the Afghanistan Football Federation was considering having a girls’ soccer tournament – meaning there were a few other girls interested in playing. After playing in that tournament, I was chosen for the Afghanistan’s first Girls’ National Team.

It was not easy to play soccer in a male dominated society where girls have been denied their very basic rights for decades and where issues such as child marriage and domestic violence are an everyday challenge.

Our team players faced many social and economic challenges beside the security issues. Most of us had to walk hours to reach the practice field which was within the International Security Assistance Force’s headquarter in Kabul. Sometimes our coach or I had to talk to girls’ families to convince them to let them come and play by promising they would be safe and that we respected religious and traditional values.

Sometimes I would go to different schools to convince their principles to let the girls play soccer in their schools and they would object most of the times. My own family was not happy about me playing soccer, mostly for economic and security reasons, especially because being part of a minority group, a Hazara, made me even more vulnerable in society. But I always felt so much responsibility towards other kids that never had a chance to experience this wonderful game.

I had a dream to become a soccer player.  I accomplished my dream even though it seemed impossible at first.  Now, I have a dream of an equal world where it does not matter if you are a girl or a boy and you can dream of being whatever you want!

I just wanted more and more kids find their way to the wonderful world of soccer when you can share your joy with your teammates and forget all your problems in home and school. I became the Captain of our national team and played in many national and international games. I was also the first female in Afghanistan to become a FIFA licensed coach and founded under 14 girls’ national team. In my efforts to bring more attention to the female sport players I met with John Kerry secretary of states and later I won the Muhammad Ali humanitarian award.

I am climbing this mountain for the girls who climb a mountain of challenges in their everyday life just for very basic rights, such as playing games and participating in sports and social activities. I hope that through doing so, we can bring more attention to the girls and women who need global support and attention. I want to tell them that they are not alone and I appreciate their fight for their rights. Each time they climb a mountain, they are in fact sweeping away a stone from the path that other girls will follow.

To support Zahra and the other Equal Playing Field players, please visit visit http://equalplayingfield.com/donate/

To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com

Coach Profile | Marisa Gonzalez, Mexico

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Meet Marisa Gonzalez, one of our Mexican coaches who has been so successful with her team back home that she can no longer climb the mountain with us – so that she can dedicate her time to her team’s success! She will be running sports clinics in Mexico later this year under the Equal Playing Field banner. Here she tells us what playing and working in football has done for her and why she is supporting Equal Playing Field.

 

I grew up in Puebla Mexico, surrounded by a big family. My dad always played soccer and coached, so I was introduced to football very early. I was lucky that way. I started playing at around 7-8, then played competitive starting age 12.  Later, I played college soccer in the US. Division 2. I got injured my junior year so my last two years I was a student coach so I could stay on the team.

 

I have been involved in football as a player, then as a coach, as a manager, as a leader. It has become one of the most important parts of my life. Being a woman in sport pushes you to work harder and prove yourself. 80% of the people I work with are men. It’s tough, especially if you are a manager or have people working for you. I am one of the few women coaches in competitive teams, so I’m always needing to prove that my knowledge of soccer is as valid as theirs.

 

People here still believe football makes you less of a woman or will change your sexual orientation. I believe that the biggest problem is that sport are not seen as “ladylike”. Girls playing sports are then not taken seriously, and girls are never treated as genuine athletes.

 

I hope that we see more girls doing sport at a younger age - and parents supporting girls who decide to take part in any sport they choose.

 

Because of sport I am willing to overcome any challenges, work in teams, not be afraid of being a leader, work well under pressure. Football has given me my best friends. It has given me a purpose and has allowed me to connect with many girls and be a positive influence in their lives. It has made my family come closer because we are all involved in the club. And I believe it has made me a strong, independent woman that is not afraid to speak up and with a better self-image and self-esteem than many of my friends.

 

I play football not only because I love the game but because when I play, I feel complete. Football allows me to be myself.

 

It’s important to show that the everyday struggles women face happen all over the world, not just in a single country. There is such power in women that work together. I am climbing this mountain for me, to show myself how strong I can be and to show the girls I coach I am willing to climb a mountain if it means it will help them to have equality in their future.

 

For more information please visit www.equalplayingfield.com

Former England Player joins international all-woman football world record attempt

Rachel Unitt launches fundraising drive to get her to top of Mt Kilimanjaro to play 90-minute match, calling for an equal playing field for all women and girls in sport.

Former Lionness Rachel Unitt, who played for Notts County, Everton and Wolves during her career, has joined an international 30 women squad to try to break the world record for the highest altitude football match ever played. The women will play a full 90-minute game, officiated by female FIFA accredited referees just below the Summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, almost 2 kilometres higher than the highest stadium in the world. A documentary team and TV crew will join the women as they climb the mountain. The international squad, is composed of professionals, national team players and competitive amateurs from more than 20 countries, as diverse as Afghanistan, Argentina, France, Jordan, Sweden, South Africa, and Tanzania but still seek final funds to make sure it can take place in one month’s time.

Should the squad raise the funds required, the world record game scheduled for June 24 during UK Women in Sport Week, will draw attention to the daily discrimination faced by women seeking to play, compete, coach or work in football and raise the profile of inspirational female sporting role models in the media.

Unitt said “Every day women face many small mountains whether at grassroots or elite level. Unfortunately, many drop out too early because the support, the investment and the visibility is lacking. We want to climb this one huge mountain, to inspire women and girls over the world. We want them to know that no matter the barriers or challenges they may face they should never give up. Anything is possible.”

Maggie Murphy, co-organiser of the record breaking feat, also from the UK said “We are delighted to have Rachel join our squad. All our players, whether from the US, Tanzania or Afghanistan have faced many challenges throughout their lives – just to play the game they love. Some challenges may be more extreme than others, but the playing field is far from equal for all women. Playing football should not have to be a dream and no girl should miss out because of her gender.”

In taking on this world record attempt, Unitt joins two time Olympian and World Cup Winner Lori Lindsey (USA) former Mexico women’s team captain Monica Gonzalez, Egyptian player of the year 2011 Esraa Awad, South African record goal scorer Portia Modise, Sandrine Dusang and Julie Soyer (France), Zahra Mahmoodi and Hajar Abufazl (Afghanistan), former Fulham player Deena Rahman (Bahrain), and other pro or competitive amateurs and FIFA accredited referees from Argentina, Canada, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Nepal, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates and the UK. Other UK based players include organiser Maggie Murphy (Camden Town FC), Katie Donegan (Basingstoke Town LFC) and Nikki Riley and Lisa Clutterbuck (South London WFC).

Equal Playing Field is partnering with Football for Peace in the lead up to the record breaking attempt as well as through a series of global clinics that will take place once the attempt has been completed.

To watch the film trailer and support the world record attempt, please visit https://startsomegood.com/projects/equalplayingfield 

To support Rachel Unitt’s participation: https://www.gofundme.com/rachels-record-breaking-challenge?rcid=e158f77b3d7f4fc4985bd558840a5fc7 

 

For interviews

Maggie Murphy, Communications Lead  +44 751 7707 565 | mmurphyiw@gmail.com

Player Profile | Haneen Al-Khateeb, Jordan

Meet Haneen Al-Khateeb from Jordan. She’s represented her country at the U17 level at the World Championships and tells us here what it is like to be a young female athlete trying to compete at the highest level and why she is joining the Equal Playing Field squad.

Haneen is kindly being supported by Sportrak but is still looking for additional supporters. Want to help her and her teammates get up Mt Kilimanjaro and inspire the next generation? Visit https://startsomegood.com/equalplayingfield

 All my experiences have taught me that football is not just a game. Football is life, hope, and love.

I grew up in a small town playing football with the neighborhood boys in the streets from the age of 9. I joined a local club and later, was selected for the U-17 national team. In 2010 I played in the world championships in Sri Lanka. I then co-organized the 2016 U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan and am involved in football clinics for refugees. I believe there will be many more football opportunities in my life and I’m very excited for what will be ahead.

Football hasn’t always been so popular in Jordan. It’s grown a lot though it’s not yet equal to men’s football. Fortunately, Prince Ali has been a huge supporter of gender equality in football, not just in Jordan but all around the world. He was successful in helping to lift FIFA’s ban on the hijab in women’s football and that has been so helpful to me and other hijabi athletes.

I have been told to stop playing in the streets. I have been told to stop playing the game I love. I have been told that football wasn’t for women. I have been told that women are not strong enough to compete. I have been judged by what I wore.

Football was the first opportunity for me to fight for what I wanted and encouraged me to chase my dreams. Football has given me strength, passion and opportunities in life. 

Now I am a 22 year old hijabi woman athlete. I run, I play football, I cycle. I still constantly worry about what people will say or what people will think. I only ask to be respected in whatever sport I decide to take up, regardless of my gender.

My family are my number one supporters. They’ve always known that I was not going to submit to society’s rules if they were unfair. No matter what, I know they’ll always be there to encourage me to follow my dreams and I would not be where I am today without them. 

As a hijabi athlete, I know the obstacles and struggles that women face. As a journalism and media student, I see the power of media and how it can change people’s lives. We need to show the world the abilities and achievements of every successful woman. Thousands of talented and passionate women athletes have many stories to tell and are waiting to tell them.

Climbing this mountain shows I am able - and crazy enough - to go after what I want with passion, determination and love. It means I have accepted the challenge to prove to every single woman that anything is possible regardless of gender or what society says is acceptable. I’m doing it for myself. I’m doing it for my love of the game. I’m doing it for each person who always believed in me.  I’m doing it to inspire and be inspired.

If you would like to support Haneen and her team mates break a world record and inspire a new generation please donate here https://startsomegood.com/equalplayingfield

To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com

Player Profile | Monica Gonzalez, Mexico

Monica Gonzalez has not only captained Mexican national women’s team and founded Gonzo Soccer Peace Foundation, but she’s worked the sideline as a reporter for ESPN, is a commentator and analyst for FOX Deportes and sits on the Advisory Board for FIFPro, the World Players Union. As if this wasn’t enough, she’s joining us in a climb of a lifetime, up MtKilimanjaro in June to break a soccer world record.

If you want to support us to break a soccer world record, please visit: www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield    

Football has been the spine of my life. As I’ve grown its place and meaning has evolved as well. It’s a game, a business, an expression of culture, a mechanism to develop character and to raise strong women and productive future employees.

I think I may be from the last great generation of street rats. It’s sad our world has become more dangerous over time and kids now don’t get to spend as much quality time together.   My dad played soccer for the US Men’s national team in the 1972 Munich Olympics so he had a ball at my feet since before I can remember and even lied about my age to get me in the boys’ league when I was 4.

 

When I was 13, I learned that playing soccer could get me a college scholarship and from then on, it was my goal and soccer became my job. But now there is a mad race for college scholarships - women’s soccer in the United States is becoming much more exclusive and girls in underserved communities are missing out on the chance to play.

 

In 2012, the NCAA reported that only 4% of its female student-athletes were Latina, and this is in a country that has almost 20% Latino population! The statistics for early pregnancy, and thus sustained poverty cycles, in US inner cities are worse than the 15 communities where I have soccer academies in Mexico and Colombia, so I know that there are still thousands of girls in the US that need someone to speak up for them.

 

I learned through having set up the Gonzo Academy that when a girl plays sports it doesn’t just change their life, it changes her family, her friends and the entire community. Now I see that empowering women is what will bring peace and prosperity to all of us. I got lucky, and ended up playing professional soccer, working as a sports broadcaster, and travelling the world - all because of soccer. I’m climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with Equal Playing Field for those girls out there who want go out and play but aren’t allowed or don’t have the chance.

 

There seems to be a sense that we need to “protect” girls, which is maybe partly because of levels of violence against women - but there is also implies an inherent “weakness” in women.

 

It was hard to be the captain of the Mexico national team, center back, #4—just like Rafa Marquez—and be making $300 a month while I knew he was making millions. Later on it was hard for me to be ESPN sideline reporter, as a FIFA World All Star, when all I was allowed to do was to be the “jock sniff” - chasing the boys around the field to get interviews. ESPN didn’t let me make comments or have my own opinions. I was only allowed to report on things I saw or heard on the field.

 

But sometimes I wonder, is that discrimination, or is it just businesses at different stages of their evolution?

 

As I speak to more women around the world I hear they suffered the same way we did yet we kept telling ourselves we were lucky to be on a national team and kept our mouths shut. FIFPro women’s director, former Swedish goal-keeper Caroline Jonsson, calls it “gratitude guilt”. Many amazing players my age, including myself, still have financial problems today because we chose to follow our hearts and listened to our coaches when they told us not to complain or else our program would get cut. Today, female footballers across the globe are discovering that it is not only okay to speak up, it is essential for us to continue to evolutionize our sport, discover our own competitive advantage, and prove our value to society.

 

Our world is in dire need of female role models and football is the perfect industry to get them from. The most important work ever is taking place now -  as we see national teams like Ireland and Chile unionizing and demanding basic human rights be met.

 

My vision for the future is the same as my vision for Gonzo Soccer---a world with more female footballers will be a more peaceful and prosperous world. Football is global - so it could be what unites our world and builds bridges if we want it to.

To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com

Player Profile | Lori Lindsey, USA

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Retired US midfielder Lori Lindsey is Equal Playing Field’s newest recruit! With 31 caps for the US, playing in the 2011 FIFA World Cup and part of the gold medal winning squad in the London 2012 Olympics she has plenty of experience to draw on as she now aims to break a footballing world record. Here she tells us why she’s joined the Equal Playing Field squad.

Do you want to support Lori break a world record so she can help younger players realise their dreams? Sponsor her here: https://www.gofundme.com/kn5a2-equal-playing-field

Football has brought me so much joy to my life.

I grew up in Indiana and played every sport possible, but soccer was my first love and favorite. My older brother Chris played so I would play on his all-boys teams since there weren’t as many opportunities for girls at that time. I remember watching the first ever Women’s World Cup when I was 11 and thinking that one day, I want to be just like those women. Some twenty years later I can now reflect back on what I have achieved. I am one of only four players to play in all three of our women’s professional leagues here in the US, and represented the US Women’s National Team, notably in the 2011 World Cup and then at the London 2012 Olympic Games. I am now in a position to inspire young players to reach their dreams.

The first time I pulled on the US national jersey, it felt amazing. It felt like all my hard work over so many years was paying off. And it wasn't just about the hard work I had put in....the jersey represented all the time, love, and money that my parents, my family, countless coaches and numerous friends had put in to get me to that point.

My most proud moment is the 2011 Women's World Cup. As any player knows, the World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport and to play and participate in what was arguably the most successful women's sporting event in the world at that time was a dream come true for me.

I have been afforded some amazing opportunities through football but even as I climbed up the ladder to professional football – one thing was clear; the playing field for women in sport is not equal. We are making strides in the U.S. especially with the most recent collective bargaining agreement with our Women’s National Team – but I believe the next step is for us is to help other countries to close the inequality gap. The 2015 World Cup highlighted some of these drastic inequalities in some countries between their men’s and women’s teams and we need to help them. I hope to play a vital role in this.

Football taught me many things; I’ve learned dedication, heartbreak, how to be a team player, the power of persistence, hard work, that change is constant. Most importantly I have learned to believe in myself. Climbing up this mountain allows me to continue to play an important role in raising awareness and end this inequality.

To support the Equal Playing Field squad break a world record and inspire new generations please visit: www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield     

To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com

IFA Sport Joins Women’s World Record-Breaking Team

PRESS RELEASE

IFA Sport has joined the Equal Playing Field Initiative as UAE Partner

Dubai | April 27 2017

In June 2017 two all-women football teams will battle out for 90 minutes on a football pitch built just below the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. If they succeed, they will break the Guinness World Record for the highest altitude football game ever played. The players, from more than nineteen countries, include former Canadian national Sasha Andrews, former German World Cup star Petra Landers, Afghan national Hajar Abufazl, South African Portia Modise, former FIFA World Cup referee Jacqui Hurford (née Melksham) and pro players or competitive amateurs from Argentina, France, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, the UK, US and the United Arab Emirates. There are currently five players joining the team from the UAE, two of which are members of the IFA league. 

As a strong supporter of women’s sport, IFA looks forward to contributing to the Equal Playing Field Efforts. Jessica Prelle, Head of girls & womens football at IFA, says “We’re very excited to partner up with EPF to further encourage and support girls and womens sport in the region and worldwide. At IFA we have a strong focus and passion to develop female football and offer programs for all ages where girls and women can join, no matter what age, nationality or level. By offering a fun but safe environment as well as a number of great pathways, girls can develop and improve in their own time.

Initiatives like EPF are a welcome development for sportswomen in the region - we are still fighting stereotyping in football, especially in the Middle East and it is time to break down these barriers.”

 

IFA will host the EPF Ladies Cup on May 19 which will include players from around the region and provide visibility to the initiative. It will also host a clinic after the climb in which the UAE EPF team can work with girls to improve not only their soccer skill but also provide them with mentorship and positive role models.

Through partnership with IFA, EPF looks forward to further expanding its network in the UAE and consequently, its positive impact.  It is also continuing to pursue other partnerships and sponsorships in the country and region, specifically with entities dedicated to women in sport and interested in joining the world record-breaking team. 

For more information about this initiative and how you can get involved, please see www.equalplayingfield.com or email equalplayingfield2017@gmail.com 

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Maggie Murphy, Head of Communications |London UTC+1 |+44 751 7707 565 | mmurphyiw@gmail.com

Hoorag to provide Equal Playing Field athletes with gear ahead of record climb

PRESS RELEASE

Players will stay protected from the sun and dirt whilst looking good!

London/Amman/Melbourne | April 27 2017

Equal Playing Field is grateful to receive latest in-kind support from US company Hoorag – helping us to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in June, keeping hair out of eyes, sun off our faces and moisture at bay. Find out more about Hoorag here.

Veronica of Hoo-rag said, "We are especially pleased to support such a fantastic journey knowing that it will help continue forging the path for equality and balance between genders in a way that stretches across several cultures.  We are excited to see what becomes of their quest as they head out for adventure!"

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Maggie Murphy, Head of Communications |London UTC+1 |+44 751 7707 565 | mmurphyiw@gmail.com

Aspire Underwriting Agency proud to kit out Equal Playing Field record-breakers

PRESS RELEASE

London/Amman/Melbourne | April 23 2017

Equal Playing Field welcomes the financial support provided by Aspire Insurance to kit out the players as they attempt a world record breaking soccer match at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in June. Players from almost 20 nationalities including ten national team players will step out on a temporary pitch at more than 18,000 ft in kit provided by Aspire.

Mark Jeffrey, CEO of Aspire Underwriting Agency said Aspire are proud to be associated with initiatives that reach out in a pro-active manner to create awareness of inequalities, prejudices and injustices that still exist in society”

 

For more information on the record-breaking attempt, see www.equalplayingfield.com.

There remain a number of sponsorship opportunities. For more details please contact equalplayingfield2017@gmail.com 

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Erin Blankenship, Co-Founder | Amman UTC+3 | +962 7 9836 5212 | erinebsa@gmail.com

Maggie Murphy, Head of Communications |London UTC+1 |+44 751 7707 565 | mmurphyiw@gmail.com

Equal Playing Field players to rock WackySox up Mt Kilimanjaro

Socks will make teams stand out at top of Mt Kilimanjaro during world record attempt in June.

London/Amman/Melbourne | April 25 2017

Equal Playing Field is grateful to receive in-kind support from UK company WackySox – protecting our feet with designs as crazy as our world record breaking challenge! Find out more about WackySox here.

Keith Grainger Managing Director of WackySox said “As a business we promote the involvement in and enjoyment of sport at whatever level irrespective of your ability, age, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexuality”. We are proud to say that all our hats and socks are made here in Great Britain and we are also proud to support The Equal Playing field project which is making a huge statement on a global platform. We wish them every success in promoting equal opportunities in sport for all everywhere around the world”.  

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Maggie Murphy, Head of Communications |London UTC+1 |+44 751 7707 565 | mmurphyiw@gmail.com

Player Profile | Hajar Abulfazl, Afghanistan

Meet Hajar Abulfazl, Afghan national team player and coach of the Under-19s. She describes how important her family has been to realizing her dreams and what she hopes she can achieve for other women and girls through her efforts, including taking part in this world record-breaking challenge.

Want to help Hajar get up Mt Kilimanjaro and inspire the next generation? Visit www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield  

I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. My family had to leave the country because of war, When the war finished, we returned to Kabul where I started playing football at school, aged 14. After playing in several tournaments, I was selected for the national team in 2008. I am a former captain of the team, head of the women’s and finance committees for the Afghanistan Football Federation, and currently coach the Under-19s team. I am also a proud Athlete Ambassador for Shirzanan, a Muslim Women Sports Advocacy group.

I’m dedicated to female empowerment through sports and try to speak with girls and to the media as often as possible to raise awareness for the human right and benefits of participation. As a recent medical school graduate, I emphasize the health and social implications.

I co-founded Tawana Youth Development Organization (TYDO), which organizes school visits and sports festivals to promote sports among girls in the country. I love coaching Tawana where I have 18 players practicing three times a week. In rural areas, it’s much more difficult for girls to play -  often because of instability in the country. Parents want to keep the girls home and protected.

But, girls are also kept off the playing field because their parents and brothers maintain conservative views that sports are for boys, girls are weak, and girls should stay home. Every day, I hear a new story about girls giving up their dreams to play – or sometimes even go to school – because they don’t have support.

My family was different. I am part of a big family, the third of eight sisters and four brothers. I have been lucky to have siblings and parents who support, encourage and protect me - and that includes my football activities. Despite cultural taboos, my father and mother let me play and talk to media as a role model to other girls and to their parents. We show them that sports are positive for the individual, family, and society by making girls stronger and productive.

I hope for a future where barriers and discrimination don’t kill the dreams of women and girls worldwide. There’s a long way to go to influence gender norms and gain the support of men and boys who recognize their sisters, daughters and wives all deserve equal opportunities.

Equality to me means women and men with equal freedom to think, to make decisions, to choose the path of our own lives, and to seek our own achievements. Equality means women being allowed to be the champion and superstar of their own lives.

Football enriched my life. It taught me discipline and commitment, success and failure. Because of football, I have traveled around the world and participated in multi-national and cross-cultural exchanges like the Equal Playing Field Initiative. I have been able to learn and contribute to peace and understanding through sports.
 

I am so excited and honored to unite and unify with the great, diverse Equal Playing Field international team climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

If you would like to support Hajar break a world record and inspire a new generation please donate here www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield   

To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com

Player Profile | Nikki Riley, UK

Meet Nikki Riley from the UK – here she tells us what frustrates her about the way women athletes are portrayed in the media, how she’s been lucky to have had life choices that she knows are denied to others, and why she’s climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with Equal Playing Field.

Want to help Nikki break a world record? She’s also fundraising for our Egyptian star Esraa Awad. Sponsor them here: https://www.gofundme.com/equal-playing-field-kilimanjaro

I grew up in Nottingham, England. I played sports at school, but I wasn’t allowed to play football. The girls were only allowed to play netball and hockey, boys were allowed to play football and rugby. I hated all the sports I was “supposed” to play but I started playing football for a local girls’ team that my dad found when I was 10.

I never attended a pro-women’s football game until I was in my 20s as it wasn’t really something advertised. Come to think of it, I never watched any women’s sports -  all the live sports I was taken to see were men’s! It annoys me that there’s a bit of a stigma around women’s sport, that its seen as “not as good” or “the cheap option”. The coverage of women’s football in the UK has got better – but is still terrible.  When England played recently, I had to scroll through so many sports stories to find anything on the game! Ironic considering our women’s team are much more successful than our men’s at the moment!

And when women are profiled – they are often described in a derogatory way as though it’s a surprise that they are good at sport. Being first described as a “mother” or “wife of” or “ex model” rather than focussing on the fact that she is an athlete. They are often judged on their looks rather than their sporting performance. For men’s coverage, their sporting achievement comes first.

People say that the men’s game has a better atmosphere - this will only change when people are more open to watching women’s sport – but they can’t open up to the idea until there is better profile of women’s sport in the media.

In taking on this world record challenge, I hope to pave the way for my future children. My ten-year old niece is excited that I am climbing a mountain. She is a very girly girl and has joined the football and basketball teams at school and I don’t for one second think it has crossed her mind that she is playing a “boys” sport. This is how it should be, and I hope that won’t suddenly change. I have hope for the next generation. 

I believe women should have more choice in the way they live their life. I have been lucky enough to live in a society where I have been allowed to make my own choices. I recently married my wife, something that is frowned upon and illegal in many countries around the world. I am climbing this mountain for all the women who aren’t allowed freedom to be who they want to be in all aspects of their life.

If you would like to support Nikki to break a world record and inspire a new generation please donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/equal-playing-field-kilimanjaro