WOMEN AND AMERICAN FOOTBALL IN EGYPT
On May 13, 2016, Maadi was host to a historical first: the first women’s American football game in Egypt. The game was dubbed the ‘Clash of the Wild’. It was a meeting of the first two women’s teams in Egypt – the Pink Warriors and the SheWolves.
Both teams took to the field and warmed up before a large crowd of supporters waving homemade signs and chanting for their favorites. The Pink Warriors started the game on offense but were unable to score. Down 14-0 at halftime, the Pink Warriors made a comeback in the second half. Thanks to several defensive stops and key interceptions, the offense took advantage of the opportunity to outscore the stout SheWolves defense. The game ended with the Pink Warrior quarterback running out the clock. The final score was 33-26.
Currently the most popular sport in the United States, American football has been steadily gaining popularity in other parts of the world. With roots in rugby and soccer, American football is a heavy contact sport that involves specialized positions and skilled players. The Egyptian League of American Football (ELAF) was formed in 2013 and this past season had six male teams with hundreds of players competing. Many ladies also wanted to play. Thus began the push for a women’s flag football team, where instead of hitting and tackling to stop the play, the defense must pull a flag from a belt worn by the offensive player.
The Pink Warriors held tryouts in November 2015. Very few of the players who joined the team knew much about American football. “I knew it was the aggressive, challenging and intense adrenaline-filled game I’d seen in the movies, but when I joined I didn’t know anything about the rules,” says Sori Selim age 26, a wedding and event coordinator based in Nasr City. Sori and her teammates have been practicing for several months and learning the rules of the game.
“The beautiful thing about our team is that we are all from different backgrounds in life,” says Hadeer Nasser, a wide receiver, an offensive player who catches passes. The ages of the players start at 16 but go into the mid-30s, and they come from all walks of life: students, professionals, a working mom, and an American graphic designer.
Lora Mosley age 33, a mother of three, is a quarterback and team captain. She finds time in her busy schedule to attend practices and games thanks to the help of her husband and mother-in-law. Lora, a teacher and one of the oldest members on the team, was surprised to learn that some of her teammates were young enough to be her students. “When I heard one of the girls was studying for exams I was shocked. All the girls are very mature and I have never felt the age difference. It’s because we all love the same thing. We are just one big family and I love these girls,” Lora says.
Lora’s ten-year-old daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps and has recently joined a football league for youth: “My mom plays football and I think it’s really cool. I want to be like her. Having a mom playing the same sport is really good,” Even Lora is impressed with herself, “I look at myself and think, I have 3 kids but my body is working like a 16-year-old. It’s so nice to see I can still do it.”
High school student 16-year-old Nadine is the youngest on the team. She was nervous at first that she would be too young to fit in, but now she claims to have many big sisters in her life. It’s a sentiment echoed throughout the Pink Warriors locker room. Despite the diversity, there is a camaraderie that none of the girls expected.
Marwa Magdi age 25, plays center for the Warriors. In the May game, she caught a five-yard touchdown pass for six points. Marwa has participated in sports her whole life but took a break for a while after university. She describes herself as the type of girl who was never skinny; she became concerned about her weight and fitness level after noticing that even the simplest tasks like climbing the stairs left her tired. When she joined the team she struggled to run two laps around the small practice field. With determination and encouragement from her teammates, she can now run a solid 30 minutes at a steady pace. She wants to be an example to people who think they are too overweight to do sports and want to give up, “You can do anything if you believe you can do it” she says. “My teammates didn’t realize it, but I was going through a really difficult time in my personal life. I was depressed and didn’t want to even leave my bed, but I went to practice and the team helped me out of my sadness without even knowing it.”
The Clash of the Wild game was the first of many women’s games in Egypt. The EFAF is currently working to create a women’s flag football league with several teams competing throughout Cairo. Follow EFAF on Facebook and the Pink Warriors on Instagram at transforma_pw.
Photo Credits: Sportoya and Ahmed Ali