The headmaster for the school for girls in Qallah Loqman came to visit Budd in Kabul in April 2010 to discuss our “play strategy.” We agreed to provide playground equipment for the girl’s school. We also agreed to finance the construction of a soccer field and the cost of running a soccer program. Since it was adjacent to the girls’ school, we asked whether they would be willing to have a soccer program for the girls as well as the boys. The answer was no. Why?
First, cultural factors and fear lead families to conclude girls should not be seen. They prefer that all schools, but particularly girls’ schools, be surrounded by very high walls so the children are hidden from the outside world. (We were not able to provide playground equipment at the Tangi Saidan girls’ school because the playground is not walled in.) Secondly, they didn’t think enough girls would be interested. Soccer is “what boys do.”
Well, maybe just asking the question at the right place with the right people sparked change, because whatever the barriers were to girls playing soccer in Qallah Loqman, within a month they were overcome! We don’t exactly know how. We just know that by May 2010 Qallah Loqman requested funding for two soccer programs, one for boys and one for girls!! The soccer coach now works with both programs, separately of course.
The girls were so excited to have the opportunity that they began playing right away, many wearing sandals. As soon as we realized what they were wearing, we had them fitted with tennis shoes (their choice), purchased in Kabul and shin guards donated by the Sports Basement. Click here for the inspiring video made by Liz Schwerdtle in Sun Valley, Idaho.
How many generations will it be before the girls play in shorts and jerseys? It doesn’t matter. They are openly playing soccer outdoors and loving it! The villagers of Qallah Loqman are paving the way for others! Is FIFA World Cup Soccer for Women in 2011 a possibility? No. 2015? Probably not. 2019? Why not? Crazier things have happened. The seed has been planted!!!