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.
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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.