Culture

Football academy for young girls opens in Tripoli

North Africa

A new sporting academy has been opened in Libya's Tripoli in an attempt to encourage young girls to take an active part in sports.

In an attempt to promote and encourage women’s talents in sports, a female football academy was recently opened in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Since its launch over a month ago, the Tawati Football Academy was able to recruit over 30 girls across different age groups.

However, its been an upstream battle for these girls and their trainers, who have been criticised for this move because of many claims that it contradicts the conservative Libyan society.

“There were negative comments on social media because of this issue,” said Mohammed al-Tawati, a trainer at the football academy. “However, everyone has their own way of thinking, and the negative comments are taken into consideration.”

The females at the academy have shown that they are stronger than the negativity that they receive.

“I chose football because it is for both sexes and not only for males,” said Sama Badi, a trainee at the academy. “Abroad, everyone plays this sport, and we are supposed to play it in Libya and develop in practising it.”

While the women’s football team in Libya was formed in 1997, FIFA hasn’t recognised the team, forcing them to play mini-football matches locally. Furthermore, since the 2011 Arab Spring and the crises that have emerged in the country since then, professional sports players have not been able to exercise their talents freely in Libya.

During ISIS’ rule in some parts of the country, football was criminalised entirely, with those who play it facing punishment.

With the improved situation now, the culture of sports is slowly returning to the country. However, for women’s sports team, an uphill battle remains.

Throughout the Arab world, female athletes are attempting to break the stereotype that sports are only for males.

In Jordan, whose society is also conservative, the female football team, was able to overcome the battle of the sexes in sports in a decade. Similarly, in Iraq, women have been able to break the stereotype by participating in sports such as wrestling and weightlifting.

Libyan civil society organisations in association with sports clubs and academies should continue carrying this torch in their country by supporting women’s talents in sports.

While this is long from being normalised, the launch of the Tawati Football Academy is an essential step towards the integration of women in sports in the Middle East.