File this under badass. Although team sports are illegal for women in Saudi Arabia (which does not have a women’s delegation in the Olympics), an underground league has emerged giving women and girls an opportunity to play. Public Radio International reports:
It was a soccer match. One team wore bright yellow T-shirts and navy blue shorts. Their opponents were clad all in dark blue. On the side lines, family and friends sat on white plastic lawn chairs, cheering on the teams. . . . In any other country, this would be a regular soccer game between two college teams. But these players are all women. And this game was taking place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. By convention, women do not officially play soccer in Riyadh. The city is very conservative. And if authorities got wind of this game, they’d likely shut it down.
The [Blue Team] captain says she trained herself to coach other players by purchasing DVDs on Amazon and watching soccer footage on YouTube. They have limited access to facilities and funding. But that hasn’t stopped them from playing.
Watching the game were two business women. . . . They just started a new sports program. It targets girls from about 7 to 18 and teaches them to play team sports. Girls over 18 can get training as coaches. It’s only three months old now, but the women say there’s a surge of interest.
If this isn’t an indication that team sports are just as important to women as they are to men then I don’t know what is. Organizing, participating in and funding this league is truly courageous. The women who do these things, as well as the spectators who watch, are likely motivated by their love of the game. However it is undeniable that – in a country where women only won the right to vote last year and are still prohibited from driving cars – they are all taking strides for women’s equality.