Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The 'Mighty Girls'...

...of SALT (Sports and Leadership Training) Academy.

Yesterday I learnt of the 'Mighty Girls' program in Cambodia, which empowers and supports young women in education and training. Young women in Cambodia are often subject to human trafficking, abused and forced into early marriage. Women's football is very rare in this country and in the case of these girls, it's a great opportunity for them, not only on the pitch.

SALT Academy develops young leaders through a sustainable community-based football league, incorporating life skills lessons, vocational training, and community engagement.

Unfortunately, for a lot of uneducated girls in Cambodia, they are at risk and don't get the support they need in life. Through donations, sponsorship and volunteers, SALT Academy is gradually changing the lives of many young people in the country. 'Mighty Girls' are proof that this can be achieved, with some players being selected for national youth teams and others developing into part-time football coaches for junior sides. I urge anyone to read some of the player profiles and see what impressive work is going on in Cambodia, all thanks to the powerful effect football has on a global level into changing lives.

Time to blow the whistle on 'The man in black'...

...female officials are making history once again, as Amy Fearn proves.

On Saturday 9th November 2013, Amy Fearn became the first woman to referee a main FA Cup draw match in the 142 year history of the competition. The high profile match didn't phase Fearn, who confidently controlled the game, which produced four yellow cards, as Dover Athletic beat Corby Town 2-1 at Steel Park.

Fearn's first experience with making the headlines came in 2006, when she was criticised by Luton Town's manager Mike Newell. He made controversial comments after the assistant referee (Fearn), decided not to award his side a penalty during Luton's 3-2 loss to QPR. Newell said: "She shouldn't be here. I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is not park football, so what are women doing here?" The FA investigated his remarks and fined him £6500. He later apologised and was warned by his club.

On a more positive note, Fearn made a historical achievement a few years later, by becoming the first woman to referee a Football League game in 2010. She came on as a replacement for ref Tony Bates in the last 20 minutes of the game, which unfortunately prompted some laughing and comments from the crowd such as: "Haven’t you got a husband to go home to, love?". But Amy has shrugged of these sexist remarks all her life, along with the likes of fellow officials Wendy Toms and Sian Massey, and continued to make a name for herself. Proving over her 21 year refereeing career, that she is a professional and experienced match official, determined to prove critics wrong.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Beautiful Game...

...a Kickstarter funding project that needs your help.

'The Beautiful game' is a documentary film giving an insight into the lives of the City Lads Ladies football team in South Africa. It highlights the abuse and discrimination these women face just to play the game they love. The game that they say "promotes self-worth and confidence among young girls as well as educating men and women throughout the country on women's rights, gender based violence and hate crimes."

Danny Turken, the film director, is an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker. Upon meeting the players from City Lads Ladies, she knew she had to make this film to tell their incredible stories and seek support from further afield. The film focuses on the lives of five players-Nowie, Ngwenya, Shuffle, Amy and Chika. These women are the same as many across the world, including you and me. They've spent their childhoods playing the game and growing up to love football as a sport which unites players from every background. However, unlike many of us reading this, not only have they undergone the common sexist stereotyping that surrounds the game, they've had to endure physical abuse, poverty and rape.

These women truly believe that football can help deter women from negative lifestyles and give them something to focus on and enjoy. They are local heroes who are trying to make a difference in other people's lives as well as their own. A lot of women football players have been killed and told: "We'll show you that you are a woman." They risk their lives to play because football is their escape from the daily hardships they face. They receive little financial and emotional support from their country and are criticized for promoting football to young girls as it "turns women into lesbians". Despite these issues, the main theme throughout the film focuses on the pure and simple love for football and it's ability to change the lifestyles and perception of women throughout the world.

View the film trailer here:

The film has taken Danny and her team 11 months to make and as part of the Kickstart campaign, they need to raise $75,000 by 12th November 2013 to fund editing and post production. Kickstart is an all or nothing campaign which means they have to raise the minimum amount to help tell this incredible story. As Danny states in the film: "The Beautiful Game is not just a film or exhilarating documentary, it's a catalyst for motivating social change."

My favourite piece of the trailer was so simple, yet so inspiring:

"When you're doing something that you actually love, it doesn't feel like a sport you know. It's for the passion, it's the passion that drives."

Visit the below sites for more informing on this truly amazing story: