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


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 To find out more about the challenge, please go to

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


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


Equal Playing Field grateful to International General Insurance for sponsorship


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

There remain a number of sponsorship opportunities. For more details please contact 

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For interviews

Erin Blankenship, Co-Founder | Amman UTC+3 | +962 7 9836 5212 |

Maggie Murphy, Head of Communications |London UTC+1 |+44 751 7707 565 |

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


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

To find out more about the challenge, please go to

Coach Profile | Marisa Gonzalez, Mexico


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