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Women's football league kicks off in post-Bashir Sudan

Reuters logo Reuters 10/2/2019
a group of people in a field: Sudan's member of sovereign council Aisha Musa and Sudan's Minister for Youth and Sports Wala'a Essam al-Boushi greet players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Sudan's member of sovereign council Aisha Musa and Sudan's Minister for Youth and Sports Wala'a Essam al-Boushi greet players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has launched a women's football league, a move that reflects the new transitional government's aspirations for the country and allows female players to push for wider acceptance.

a group of people playing football on a field: Players of Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams fight for the ball during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Players of Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams fight for the ball during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

Under deposed president Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in April after months of protests, Sudan was governed using a strict interpretation of sharia law and largely neglected women's participation in sports.

a group of young men playing a game of football: Players of Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams fight for the ball during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Players of Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams fight for the ball during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

But both male and female fans cheered in the stands as the Eltahadi and Eldifaa teams graced the country's oldest sports stadium in the capital Khartoum in the league's opening match on Monday.

a group of people playing a game of football: Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

"Not all of Sudanese society accepts (women's football), but a small group does and they support us," said Eltahadi player Nariman Lino.

a group of people on a stage: Players of Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams are presented to the crowd before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Players of Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams are presented to the crowd before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

"We will continue, and do what we can, until the rest of the Sudanese people accept it."

a group of people jumping in the air: Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

The league includes 21 teams from across Sudan and the match was officiated by female referees. A past attempt at an unofficial women's league featured only three Khartoum teams.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

"At the start we struggled, firstly with acceptance of the idea (of women's football), and then with the fact that we couldn't even find a pitch to train on," said Duria Taqialdin, Eltahadi's manager.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Fans react during Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

"The union gave us a space, not even really a pitch, but we cleaned it up and made it into one. We named it the graveyard, because anyone who came to play us there would lose."

a group of people looking at each other: Sudan's Minister for Youth and Sports Wala'a Essam al-Boushi greets players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Sudan's Minister for Youth and Sports Wala'a Essam al-Boushi greets players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

Sudan's new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, has said female participation across society is a priority for his government, citing the prominent role of women in the protests that brought down Bashir.

a group of people that are standing in the grass: A player from Al-Difaa carries her opponent from Al-tahadi after taking part in Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH A player from Al-Difaa carries her opponent from Al-tahadi after taking part in Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

"There is now the political will to make women's sports one of the pillars of the country's development and we will work to provide the infrastructure for (it)," said Walaa Elboushi, the minister of youth and sport in the transitional cabinet.

a little boy that is standing in the grass: A player from of Al-tahadi woman soccer team holds her son after taking part in Sudan's first women's league soccer match against Al-Difaa in Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH A player from of Al-tahadi woman soccer team holds her son after taking part in Sudan's first women's league soccer match against Al-Difaa in Khartoum

Aisha Musa, one of two female members of Sudan's 11-person joint military-civilian sovereign council, attended Monday's match as a special guest.

a group of people posing for the camera: Girls pose with footballs during  Sudan's first women's league soccer match between Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Girls pose with footballs during Sudan's first women's league soccer match between Al-tahadi and Al-Difaa woman soccer teams at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

"Our dream is to move forward, we want to participate in the (women's) World Cup, and we want to raise Sudan's name up high," said Huda Ali, a goalkeeper for Eltahadi.

a group of people looking at each other: Sudan's Minister for Youth and Sports Wala'a Essam al-Boushi greets players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Sudan's Minister for Youth and Sports Wala'a Essam al-Boushi greets players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Eltayeb Siddig, writing by Nafisa Eltahir, editing by Aidan Lewis/Pritha Sarkar)

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Sudan's member of sovereign council Aisha Musa greets players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum © Reuters/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH Sudan's member of sovereign council Aisha Musa greets players before Sudan's first women's league soccer match at the Khartoum stadium, Khartoum
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