Sunday September 16 By: Kismat Mokhtar
“My coach said I run like a girl. I said if he ran a little faster, he could too.” – Mia Hamm.
As the image of girls in male dominated sports is changing from merely cheerleaders to girls who are cheered at, Farida Salem is also taking major steps towards materializing her dream of opening a football academy for girls in Egypt. After endless years of battling cultural, social, and most importantly, gender stereotypes, the football player and coach, has finally succeeded to engrave her name in the national and international sport arena.
With a BA in Sport, Health, and Physical Education from Vancouver Island University, 12 years of playing experience and 8 years of coaching, Salem is ready to take on the challenge, to bring change to the game in Egypt. She wants to inspire, motivate and mentor young girls to follow their dreams to play football. “When I was younger, I would have loved to have a female soccer coach. I believe she would have empowered me, understood me, and believed in me more than I believed in myself. So, I have decided to give our girls the opportunity I never had growing up,” she said.
Salem had started playing football at the age of 11; a sport she picked among several other choices. She had fun playing football with her siblings and was encouraged by her family to further pursue the game, even though there weren’t many girls playing it then. As her passion for the game grew, she ended up joining the boys’ academy.
During a football tournament, Salem met some girls who also played football. Through them, she found her way to Degla Club. She was 15, and played for U20 team. After 2 training sessions, the team manager moved her to the primary team.
While playing for the Egyptian national team, Salem also “proudly represented” the American University in Cairo for 2 years, before taking a gap year to evaluate her sport’s career. Her decision surprised everybody around her, but that didn’t deter her. And when she looks back, she is “glad to have made this decision.”
During the gap year, she shot a video that showcased her skills in football, “I was an organizer in a football cup for the girls’ teams. Representatives from Vancouver Island University were attending the games in Egypt; scouting for the men’s team. I talked with them and asked if they have a girls’ team, and they gave me the email of the coach. I sent him my video, and he took it from there,” Salem said in an interview with Scoop Empire magazine.”
Salem was accepted at Vancouver Island University. She joined the college football team where she played for four years. In Canada, her skills improved dramatically. During the first year, her team won the provisional championship. A top club in the Swedish league asked her to join. The Swedish club ranks one of the top four women’s leagues in the world. Unfortunately, she could not join because of her studies. Nonetheless, she continued playing with her college team. She was qualified to participate in the third division, and then moved to the second.
With more aspirations than just opening a football academy for girls, Salem also wants to set up football camps around Egypt. She wants to discover the young talents who are always reaching out to her, to help them fulfil their football dreams.
Check Farida Salem’s Facebook page here
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