“It's a boys' game” is a refrain that is often repeated to young sportswomen. But what happens when a girl feels passionate about football?
In the Gambia, genital mutilation remains widespread despite a recent ban. Meanwhile, women's football is growing. Fatim Jawara, the 19-year-old goalkeeper of The Gambia’s national team, drowned last year in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe to find a team to play for. One of her team mates, Ajara Samba, is now a Fifa Live your Goals ambassador and says that football can change cultural perceptions and empower Gambian girls, avoiding tragic deaths like Jawara's.
Brazil's Marta, named Fifa World Player of the Year five times, is commonly known as Pele with skirts, despite scoring more than Pele for Brazil. She had to play with boys while growing up. Only at age 18, after leaving football-crazy Brazil and arriving in Sweden, did she manage to develop her own career.
England's men's football is a multimillion-dollar affair. But as midfielder Fara Williams debuted for the women's national team at age 17, she did not earn enough and was homeless. She moved back and forth between hostels and the streets for six years. Williams has played a record games for England and is now ambassador for the Street Football association, where she brings light on the hardships of a life on the margins.
We will use football and these three personal stories as a starting point to explore many of the underlying issues behind gender inequality.