Debarred from contest for wearing hijab in U.S.

By Narayan Lakshman

Kulsoom Abdullah
Kulsoom Abdullah (35) can deadlift 111 kg and snatch over 47.5 kg without breaking sweat. But the Atlanta-based weightlifter, also a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering, is struggling with a weightier issue — clothing.
While Ms. Abdullah has already made a name for herself competing in the 48-kg and 53-kg weight classes, the future of her career hung in the balance this month after USA Weightlifting, a sporting associations affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee, debarred her from joining a national competitions in Ohio and Iowa because of her hijab.
USA Weightlifting reportedly told Ms. Abdullah that as per International Weightlifting Federation rules, suits that covered either the knees or elbows are forbidden since “the judges must be able to see that the lifter has locked out his or her knees and elbows in order for the lift to be deemed completed”.
After the disappointing judgment came she told media, “I'd hate to think that just because you dress a certain way, you can't participate in sports... I don't want other women who dress like me to say, ‘I can't get involved in that sport' and get discouraged.”
Good news
Yet after her case came to light and organisations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke out on her behalf, some good news emerged in recent weeks — the International Weightlifting Federation agreed to “consider her request” to allow weightlifters to cover their heads, necks, arms and legs during competitions.
The progress came after CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote to USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun, saying, “No athlete should be forced to choose between faith and sport... Muslim women seek to participate in all aspects of American society, including sporting activities, and should not face artificial and arbitrary barriers to that participation.”
According to reports Ms. Abdullah was thrilled by the development, saying, “The fact that it's going to even be discussed, I think that's really great.”
The IWF's technical committee began deliberations on June 26, as part of a review, in Penang, Malaysia. A decision could be announced within days, reports said.

Quebec teen told she can't referee soccer with hijab on

The Canadian Press
Sarah Benkirane has been barred from refereeing while wearing her hijab.
MONTREAL — A Quebec teen who has been told she can no longer referee soccer while wearing her hijab says she's going to fight the red card.
Sarah Benkirane, 15, said her Montreal-area soccer association informed her she could no longer referee games wearing her traditional Muslim head scarf after someone filed a complaint with the league.
Benkirane, in her second season as a ref for the Lac-St-Louis Regional Soccer Association, was told religious symbols like hijabs may not be worn on the pitch.
But the teenager insists she's not going to give up on her summer job that easily.
"I was kind of frustrated, but right away I started to think, 'OK, this is my chance, if they want to rule (on) this then I'm going to fight it -- for sure,' " Benkirane said in an interview Tuesday.
"I grew up with friends from every different culture and nobody's ever discriminated against (me) because of religion."
Benkirane said she's contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations CANADA and plans to put pressure on the Canadian Soccer Association to force Quebec's governing soccer body to overturn its decision.
The president of the Quebec Soccer Federation told reporters Tuesday it's simply applying FIFA's international rules, which stipulate referees and players may not wear religious symbols on the pitch.
"It's clearly stated that officials shall not display commercial, religious. . . or personal messages of any language," Dino Madonis told a news conference.
The Quebec federation also issued a statement Tuesday to defend its ruling.
"Therefore the situation is clear! Wearing a hijab is not permitted on Quebec's soccer fields, not any more than necklaces, earrings, rings and such, and won't be until FIFA gives directives to the contrary," the statement said.
Quebec, which was ground zero a few years ago for the debate on the "reasonable accommodation" of minorities, has also seen several disputes in recent years over hijabs worn during athletics.
In 2007, an 11-year-old Ottawa girl was ejected from a soccer game in Laval, Que., after she refused to remove her hijab, which violated FIFA's no-headgear rule.
That year, a taekwondo team of Muslim girls withdrew from a tournament in Longueuil, Que., after they were told they couldn't compete in their hijabs.
Still, Quebec isn't alone when it comes to the debate over hijabs and sports.
In 2007, a soccer player wearing a hijab was ejected from a game in Calgary over safety concerns, a decision that came just weeks after an 11-year-old girl left a Winnipeg judo tournament in tears when officials refused to let her fight in a head scarf.
Benkirane said she was well aware of previous controversies surrounding athletes who were banned from playing certain sports in hijabs due to security reasons.
But she thought her situation was different.
"Refs don't have any contact with the other players, so I figured that there's no danger," she said.
"They've changed what they're saying and now they start saying it's a religious symbol -- back then it was about safety."

Less equal than others

By Namita Bhandare

In the photograph they are just numbers: 3, 14, 7. But their headscarves, covered necks and full-sleeved shirts do not mask their cheekiness. The one with #3 on her jersey has her chin up and eyebrows raised. The goofball is clearly #14, the tomboy with a scar on her left eyebrow, the practical joker of this team. On #7, there is a look of passing confusion as if asking, what just happened, how could it?

Moments later, another photograph captured the Iranian women's football team collapse in tears after being banned by FIFA for wearing tight headscarves. The ban came minutes before a qualifying match against Jordan, the outcome of which would have determined whether they would make it to the 2012 Olympics. FIFA authorities say the so-called 'snood', a headscarf that covers head, ears and neck, contravenes its dress code. They say the Iranians were 'informed thoroughly' of this. Not so, says Iran. FIFA had amended its dress code last year and the new outfit had been approved by the federation's Sepp Blatter — a man who had  recommended in 2004 that women wear tighter shorts for a more 'feminine aesthetic'.
In Saudi Arabia, women are banned from competing in sport. So, you could argue that the Iranian women, who must observe hijab under law, have it somewhat easier. Women athletes have shown remarkable resilience in repressive environments. In the 2004 Olympics, Nassim Hassanpour, a teenage gymnast and the only Iranian woman to participate in the Athens Olympics switched to shooting because it was one of the few events that allowed her to participate in a headscarf and long coat. In the 1992 Olympics, Algerian Hassiba Boulmerka won the 1,500 metres wearing a pair of shorts, received death threats and was forced into exile. The Muslim Women's Games, allows women to compete on one condition: no men are allowed to watch.
Amazingly, they play on. Yet, regardless of where they live, hijab or no hijab, women athletes face discrimination. They earn less in prize money and get niggardly media coverage, as if they are adjuncts to the main game. Sports writer Rohit Brijnath writes of how in 1970, tennis star Billie Jean King was told by a male player, "No one wants to watch you birds play anyway." Things are better today, he writes, but 'equality in sport is still an idea'.
It is. Last month, the Badminton World Federation with only two women on its 25-member council ruled that women must play in skirts to create a more 'attractive presentation'. Following an uproar over such an obvious attempt to sex up the game, the federation has agreed to 'further study' the proposed dress code.
In India, Sania Mirza, the country's highest-ranked woman tennis player, has been scrutinised nearly as much for her skirt — briefly earning a fatwa for its length — as for her game. Another athletic role model, Saina Nehwal, born in Haryana, which with 847 girls to 1,000 boys has one of the worst female-male sex ratios in the country, counts herself lucky because her parents allowed her to play: "Many Haryanvi sportspersons, particularly women, are not half as lucky," she says. Women's hockey had its moment of shame when players accused their (male) coach of sexually inappropriate behaviour. On TV, Ashwini Nachappa said it was not uncommon for coaches to get women athletes to do sundry chores, including washing their sweaty clothes.
Women athletes deal with sport's chauvinism everywhere, every day. Women who must observe hijab by law or custom have the additional burden of demonstrating that their athleticism does not mitigate their faith: switching games, wearing restrictive garments, performing before an all women-audience, facing fatwas and death threats — whatever it takes.
The photographs don't tell the stories of the Iranian women's football team. We don't even know their names. What battles were fought just to play? What taunts were faced? What hurdles overcome? What now of shattered dreams and hopes? We don't know. FIFA should have been more welcoming, more accommodating, certainly more understanding in order to fulfill its stated goal of helping women overcome 'social and cultural obstacles'. The ban only serves to push them down.
Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.


Call for Papers: Football (soccer) in the Middle East

We invite scholarly essays, poetry, fiction, and art about the history and culture of football in the Middle East for a special issue of the journal Soccer and Society. This collection will also be incorporated as a book in Routledge’s Sport in the Global Society series. We are looking for creative, analytical, and loving treatments of the game, which is an essential part of many Middle Eastern societies’ cultural and political fabric, as evidenced by the way the recent successes of the Iraqi national team suggested possibilities of unity and solidarity.
Our work will be regional in scope and diverse in form- the first in any language where football in this entire region is explored, and will engage both sports fans and readers with an interest in Middle Eastern affairs.
We approach our subject with a critical lens but also with the sense of fun and wonder that the game provides so generously to all. We bring to the task the same loving care that Hakan Şükür employed when striking the ball and the passion of a Zamalek- Al Ahly Cairo derby.

Submissions can address the following multifaceted connections between football and society, but are not limited to them:
* Historical development in specific countries
* The impact of colonialism, independence and globalization
* National and individual identities
* Representations in film, art, literature
* Religious beliefs and practices
* Movements for social change
* Women overcoming patriarchal barriers, and the game as a gateway for independence and dignity
* Issues of class, race, and gender
* Daily life
* The Historiography of the game
* Groups traditionally omitted from accounts of the game such as the Kurds and Berbers
* Migration of players and the economics of the game
* Media
* Heroes- players that capture the imagination of many and embody their values and aspirations
* Dreams.

Recognizing the history and political implications of the term “Middle East,” for the purpose of this collection the region extends from Morocco to Afghanistan.

Please send proposals of approximately 250 words and a CV by December 1st 2010 to all the editors as Microsoft Word attachments. If your proposal is accepted, the final work will be due by March 1st 2011, for publication. For style and format guidelines of scholarly essays please consult the Soccer and Society website http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=t713636451~tab=submit~mode=paper_submission_instructions

Thank you and all the best on the playing fields of football and life.

Issam Khalidi iskhalidi55@hotmail.com
James Montague james_montague@hotmail.com
Alon Raab akraab@ucdavis.edu
Issam Khalidi iskhalidi55@hotmail.com
James Montague james_montague@hotmail.com
Alon Raab akraab@ucdavis.edu

Email: akraab@ucdavis.edu


Saina unhappy with 'mandatory skirts' rule

By Rupam Jain, TNN
Saina Nehwal during a practice session in Chennai. (BCCL Photo)

HYDERABAD: Ever since Badminton World Federation decided to make skirts compulsory for female players, World No. 3 Saina Nehwal, has been looking up her cupboard for old skirts. She spent most of the day trying them on.
Saina in conversation with Hyderabad Times on the issue:
Indian Open, starting April 26, is the last tournament that will see you playing in shorts.
"Yes, I am not happy about it. But if it's a rule, I will have to follow it."
Have you tried wearing a skirt ever since the rule?
"Yes, I wore one today."
Why don't you voice your disappointment?
"If others have accepted the decision, I can't be the only person fighting with the federation, can I? I will take time to adjust to this, but I will have to do it."
Is this the right way to promote the sport?
"I feel they should have just left the choice to the players."
Your comment on this sexist notion attached to the rule...
"They are only trying to implement this idea to make the sport popular, but there are so many other ways, right? They claim more people will come to watch my game if I wear a skirt instead of shorts. The stadium is always packed whenever I play, even if I'm in shorts. Let's see how well they can promote the sport through this rule. I am sure it will be made optional after two months."
What makes you say that?
"Badminton is a lot about jumping and running across the court. Once the players start getting uncomfortable doing this while wearing skirts, I am sure they will fight against the rule together."
Till then are you okay with pictures of you and other players in flying skirts making headlines, like it happens with tennis players?
"My job is to play and I don't care about who clicks me. When pictures of me and other players in flying skirts come out in the papers, I am sure there will be opposition and then, maybe, the federation will change the rule."

'No athlete should be forced to choose between faith and sport': Muslim weightlifter fights rules that won't let her compete in a hijab

It takes a strong woman to take on a male-dominated sport.
It takes an even stronger woman to not only take on the sport but change their age-old rules and possibly alter the face of competitive sports.
Kulsoom Abdullah wasn't always this strong, but in a bid to change that she took up weightlifting a couple of years ago.
Banned: Weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah has been declared ineligible to compete in national weightlifting competitions because of her Islamic dress
Banned: Weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah has been declared ineligible to compete in national weightlifting competitions because of her Islamic dress
She quickly grew to love the male-dominated sport, entering local competitions and even allowing herself to dream of one day making it to the Olympics.
She said: 'It was just something for fun. It gave me something to achieve as a goal.'
The 35-year-old, from Atlanta, then got herself a trainer and started working out five or six times a week, setting her sights on competing.
She said: 'I just kept working out. I have the endurance and the strength to compete.'
And so, wanting to see how far her passion could take her, she thought she would professionally compete, but didn't think this would mean compromising her religious beliefs in the meantime.
Yet Ms Abdullah - who was born in the U.S. to Pakistani parents - has been barred from entering the U.S. senior nationals in Iowa next month.
The problem? Her Muslim faith requires that she cover her arms, legs and head which violates international rules governing weightlifting attire.
Strong woman: The 35-year-old was born in the U.S. to Pakistani parents and took up weightlifting a few years ago because it was something 'fun to do'
Strong woman: The 35-year-old was born in the U.S. to Pakistani parents and took up weightlifting a few years ago because it was something 'fun to do'
Talking about the restrictions she said: 'I'd hate to think that just because you dress a certain way, you can't participate in sports.
'I don't want other women who dress like me to say, "I can't get involved in that sport" and get discouraged. It would be nice to have an environment where it wouldn't be an issue of how you dress or having different beliefs and faiths.'
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has taken up Abdullah's cause, said: 'What we hear all the time is, "You've got to empower Muslim women around the world".
'Well, how can you empower a Muslim woman more than being a weightlifter? She should be encouraged and helped along in this process. There shouldn't be arbitrary roadblocks placed in her path.'
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote in a letter to USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun: 'No athlete should be forced to choose between faith and sport. Muslim women seek to participate in all aspects of American society, including sporting activities, and should not face artificial and arbitrary barriers to that participation.'
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, CAIR cites the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which it says requires that USA Weightlifting not discriminate based on 'race, colour, religion, sex, age, or national origin'. 
Weight change: Kulsoom Abdullah said that she would hate to think that 'just because you dress a certain way, you can't participate in sports' and hopes the rules are changed so she can compete
Weight change: Kulsoom Abdullah said that she would hate to think that 'just because you dress a certain way, you can't participate in sports' and hopes the rules are changed so she can compete
The group says Ms Abdullah must be given ‘fair notice and opportunity for a hearing' before declaring her ineligible to compete based on her dress.
On Thursday, USA Weightlifting agreed to take her case to the IWF later this month.
This, of course, is a bigger issue than any one sport, any single athlete and is not the first time Islamic women athletes have been declared ineligible to compete because of their dress. 
Just last  week, Iran's women's soccer team was disqualified during an Olympic qualifying competition against Jordan after athletes wore a full-body outfit with a head scarf. As a result, the soccer team will not be allowed to compete in London.
Sports officials have argued that different dress can give athletes a competitive edge.
But Ms Abdullah said she simply wants to abide by her beliefs when she's snatching a bar full of weights above her head.
When first starting out, she was allowed to enter local meets wearing garb that made her comfortable on the inside and out: Loose-fitting exercise pants, a tight-fitting long-sleeve shirt with a T-shirt over it, and the head scarf.
As she attempted to move up to higher-level competitions, she ran up against International Weightlifting Federation rules, which forbid suits that cover either the knees or elbows because judges must be able to see that both have been locked out to complete a lift.
If the IWF agrees to alter its rules, she might still get a chance to do some snatches and clean-and-jerks at next month's national meet.
While she's not yet lifting at an Olympic level, she hasn't given up on that dream.
Mr Hooper said: 'She's not seeking any kind of advantage. She's seeking to maintain her religious principles. In an atmosphere of goodwill, these things can always be resolved.'
Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the Islamic council, said U.S. Olympic officials could be an advocate for more tolerance when it comes to attire for Islamic women athletes.
She told the Journal: 'The idea of the Olympics is that competitors from all across the world can get together and compete. Instituting regulations that exclude women of the Islamic world seems to be the antithesis of what the Olympics is all about.'
Ms Abdullah added: 'I've just been taking it one step at a time. It'll change in rules definitely help others if there are other women of faith who want to get in the sport.'


El Weleily Sets Up All-Egyptian Finals In Hurghada

Raneem El Weleily

Omneya Abdel Kawy

RESULTS: Hurghada International, Hurghada, Egypt

Women’s semi-finals:
[4] Raneem El Weleily (EGY) bt [1] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 11-4, 12-10, 11-9 (31m)
[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [5] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 9-11, 15-13, 11-7, 11-7 (49m)

A major upset by Raneem El Weleily in the women's semi-finals of the Hurghada International has set up all-Egyptian finals in the international squash circuit event in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

El Weleily was facing Australia's three-time champion Rachael Grinham in the WISPA World Tour Silver 20 event celebrating its tenth year in Hurghada.

In a match described by event spokesman Hesham El Attar as "a beautiful tactical battle", fourth seed El Weleily, the world No12 from Alexandria, took just 31 minutes to defeat the top-seeded Queenslander 11-4, 12-10, 11-9. 
Grinham was expected to reach the final for the seventh time – but the El Weleily's second upset over the illustrious former world number one this year takes the 22-year-old Egyptian into her first Hurghada final, and the seventh Tour final of her career.
El Weleily will face national rival Omneya Abdel Kawy, the Egyptian number one bidding for her fourth successive title, beat fast-rising compatriot Nour El Tayeb, the 18-year-old world No18, 9-11, 15-13, 11-7, 11-7.
Abdel Kawy, the world No8 from Cairo, is celebrating her 27th appearance in a WISPA Tour final.

Egyptian women's soccer struggle

By FOX News
Watch how the Egyptian women's soccer team fights for equality as these women live in their male counterpart's shadow.
Source: http://multimedia.foxsports.com/m/video/32650668/egyptian-women-s-soccer-struggle.htm

Soccer only for the secular-hearted?

By Manal Omar (CBS News) 

Players of Iran's women national football team warm-up.
Players of Iran's women national football team warm-up. (Getty Images)

I choose to wear a head scarf as a symbol of my identity as a strong Muslim American woman. That never prevented me from taking part in sports. I was an avid basketball player in high school, playing not just for my school but for a local basketball league in Reston, Virginia, and attending basketball camps during summers religiously. I credit sports as having shaped my character, teaching me the importance of teamwork. The thought of being denied that experience is devastating.
So I'm astounded by the discrimination from the world FIFA soccer federation banning girls in headscarves from international competition. It was a reminder for me that women's sports is still not open to all women.
It wasn't until I saw the recent pictures of the heartbroken Iranian women soccer players denied the opportunity to play that FIFA's ban hit home. I thought of how such a rule, had it applied to me, could have stripped me of a formative experience as a young Muslim athlete. And I thought of Thuraya Hazer, my 13 year old neighbor. An Iranian-American, she lives and breathes soccer. Her father's family is from Tehran, and her mother's family is from the US. She chose to wear the headscarf, and never imagined it would one day be an obstacle for her dream of playing in an international forum.v The reality is that the headscarf ban in soccer does not just impact the Iranian women. It impacts women in Muslim countries everywhere. There were three Jordanian women who were asked not to play because they wore headscarves Therefore causing a division within one team. This ban signals that women can only be active and participate if they embrace secular norms. The women we will engage with are those that fit our image of what women should be, and others are literally not welcome to play. In the shadows of an Arab spring, and a changing global perspective, I would like to imagine that the days of divide and conquer have passed.
In an ideal world, telling women what they can and cannot wear is one that should offend all women's rights activists. Once more there is an attempt to regulate women's dress. From Saudi Arabia to France, Muslim women are being told what the right amount of clothing is. In both cases, the freedom of choice is being denied. It is sad to see this debate has made it's way into the sport arena as well. The fact that it is less instead of more clothing should not make it any less offensive for women who care about individual choice, autonomy, and freedom.
In fact, the inclusion of women is important not only for women's rights defenders. It's important for all who love sports and understand its potential to transform lives. The United Nations itself has recognized this potential, adopting a resolution recognizing the "Potential of Sport to Encourage Tolerance, Social Cohesion". In announcing an action plan in 2010, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki- moon called for advocating the the principle of "sport for all".

But yes, I forgot to read the fine print - the implicit understanding that "sports for all" actually meant sports for those who comply with secular norms.

FIFA's argument that safety is at stake is almost as bad as the Taliban's argument that women riding a horse will lose their virginity. The excuses for barring women from sports are not new, and reflects a greater trend: the use by fundamentalists - both secular and religion - of women's dress code as a proxy for the clash of civilizations.
The argument that FIFA is attempting to prevent religious statements on the field is at least more plausible, and honest. But this argument, too, is uncompelling. Thuraya reminds me that the typical scene for a soccer player rushing into the field is to make the sign of the cross, kiss the ground, and rush in. It doesn't get more religious than that.
That leaves us with FIFA's final argument, that it is attempting to prevent a political statement.
But isn't the very act of banning the headscarf a political act in itself? The allegation that the wearing of the headscarf is necessarily a political statement is simply false. Many Muslim women choose to wear a headscarf as a reflection of their faith. Banning the headscarf in sports is a devastating loss for all those who believe in individual freedom and the potential of sports to transform lives and build bridges across cultures. Access is being denied to a group of women to have a life changing experience. The current FIFA stand is a real test to international feminist solidarity. The question on Muslim women's minds is, will they have to stand against oppression alone? Or will the voices from their feminist sisters join theirs?
Bio: Manal Omar is director of Iraq and Iran programs at the United States Institute of Peace. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/10/opinion/main20070579.shtml#ixzz1OxO29WKB


CAN women's rugby sevens (northern zone): Tunisia win title

Tunisia's women's rugby sevens team won the African Championship title of the northern zone
TUNIS, April 25, 2011 (TAP) - Tunisia's women's rugby sevens team won the African Championship title of the northern zone after their win Saturday at final in Dakar over their Senegalese counterparts 5/0.
The Tunisian team had beaten Egypt 40/0 at the first round, Burkina Faso 26/0 and then Morocco at semifinal 24/0.
This is the third successive title won by the national team after those of 2009 in Ghana and 2010 in Burkina Faso.

Tunisia's soccer Cup- Women: Tunisair Club win title


TUNIS (TAP)- Tunisair women's soccer club won Tunisia's women's Cup after beating Banque de l'Habitat 3-1 at a final game played on Sunday afternoon in Sousse.
Source: http://www.tap.info.tn/en/en/sports/2792--tunisias-soccer-cup-women-tunisair-club-win-title.html

Playing By The Rules

By Philip Hersh, Tribune Olympic Sports Writer

Touran Shadpour's memories of her track and field career are imprecise. The details, she said, are at home in scrapbooks, the ones with clippings about the five national records Shadpour still holds more than two decades after they were set.
Most of the pictures that accompanied those stories are missing. Shadpour's mother cut them out of the scrapbooks because they showed a young woman running and jumping in shorts and tank top. They revealed parts of the body no Muslim woman is supposed to let a mixed public see.
Shadpour wore such attire at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran, where she was sixth in the long jump, and the 1977 World Cup in Dusseldorf, where she was an alternate on the Asian team's 4x100-meter relay. It was the era in which Iranian women had been forced to westernize their dress under the shahs.

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Photos and Piece, By Claudia WIENS

Photo: Claudia Wiens
The FIFA Women’s World Cup is recognized as the most important International competition in women’s football and is played amongst women’s national football teams of the member states of FIFA, the sport’s global governing body. 2011 it is taking place for the first time in Germany. From 26th June to 17th July sixteen teams will compete at the World Cup finals. The Women’s World Cup 2011 is poised to mark a milestone in competitive women’s football with unparalleled coverage on television in terms of both production and distribution. Underlining the huge strides the women’s game has made in recent years, for the first time ever the FIFA broadcast production will comprise up to 18 cameras for selected matches, including in-goal cameras and two steadycams for all matches.
Photo: Claudia Wiens
Not only the famous teams need media support and visibility but also less known teams should get some of the spotlight. Since 2006 I have been documenting women’s football in Egypt, Palestine, Turkey and Berlin. This summer the photos will be shown in many photo exhibitions and they will be published in my new book “Schuhgröße 37″ (Size 4 Boots), a book in four languages, German, English, Arabic and Turkish.
You can order the book from any online bookshop, e.g. http://www.weltbild.de/3/16761008-1/buch/schuhgroesse-37.html

Berlin: Kreuzbergmuseum, Opening 15th June, 6pm. 15th June to 28th August
Istanbul: Caddebostan Kültür Merkezi, Opening 21st June, 7pm. 21st June to 17th July
Cairo: Sawy Center (Organised by Goethe Institute), Opening 25th June, 7pm. 25th June to 5th July.

The exhibition will be shown as well by the Goethe Institutes in Upper Egypt, Algiers, Khartoum, Ramallah, Beirut, Amman, Damascus and maybe other places. Exact dates need to be confirmed.
Please visit her blog for more photos

Turkish women’s league champ dreams of being Europe’s best

Ataşehir Belediyespor won the Turkish Women’s Football League title the second time they played in the league. The team dreams of winning the title of the European Champions League as well. Credit: Today's Zaman
Mission was not accomplished for Ataşehir Belediyespor after they won the Turkish Women’s Football League title the second time they played in the league. The team dreams of much greater heights.
“Anybody, from the club president to the coach and footballers, should leave the team if they don’t believe that we can be the European champion,” said Ataşehir Mayor Battal İlgezdi, the highest authority in the Ataşehir sports club, to the members of the team.
The Ataşehir Belediyespor women’s football team is part of Ataşehir Belediyespor, a branch of İstanbul’s Ataşehir municipality, which took over the team from the Ümraniye Mevlana High School sports club, established in 2007.
Only two seasons have passed since the team began to play in the first division, but the greatest heights were set as the target for the team: the European championship. Having the support of the giant Ağaoğlu Holding behind it at the beginning of last season, Ataşehir Belediyesi did not face much challenge in clinching the league title. They started the season with several of the stars of Gazi Üniversitesi, the defending champion from the previous season.
Surely it will be much more challenging for the İstanbul side to struggle in the European Champions League. The team will earn a berth in the tournament after playing a qualifying round. The many handicaps that can be listed ahead of the tournament will not stop Ataşehir from dreaming of being the best in Europe.
Ataşehir Belediyespor coach Murat Ülkü acknowledges the hard task ahead. “It is a handicap that most of the players are university students and the team doesn’t have the opportunity to train together very often, which leads to a problem in establishing harmony between the players. Our footballers are weaker than their European counterparts who play for top teams. There are problems regarding the amateur status of women’s football in Turkey as well,” he says.
Ülkü thinks the support behind them will help overcome the difficulties. The coach said they have already agreed to sign with a number of players from the Turkish national team and they are about to add three foreign footballers to the squad following a Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decision, allowing the women’s teams to make transfers from abroad. “Our ultimate goal is the European Champions League title. By achieving this, we will both show the power of Turkish women to the world and fulfill our promise to our president,” he added.
It will be Ataşehir’s first appearance in Europe, but not Turkey’s. Before the İstanbul team, former champions Trabzonspor and Gazi Üniversitesi had represented Turkey in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Both teams were trounced and eliminated in the qualifying rounds. But according to Ülkü, Ataşehir will not suffer the same fate. “They were not well prepared. But we, as Ataşehir Belediyespor, will be ready. With our chairman, managers, footballers and coaching team, we will succeed. We have to do it.”
Turkey does not even exist in the FIFA rankings in women’s football; hence, Ataşehir will participate in the drawing for the qualifying groups from the lowest lot.
The drawing will take place in Switzerland on June 26 while the first games will be played in early August. Turkey’s champion plans to begin trainings on June 16 and has scheduled two pre-season training camps abroad.
Women’s league still not given pro
In Turkey, the women’s league still has amateur status, while many European countries give professional status to their female footballers. Coach Ülkü had said in an earlier interview before the start of the season that Turkey still has a long way to go in women’s football. He said nothing has changed. “A change can happen if we can succeed. If we reach our goals, women’s football will surely get somewhere.”
“If the league had professional or at least semi-professional status, then sports betting would cover the women’s league. The teams would gain revenue and they could stop travelling to away matches in minibuses and instead fly to other cities. Even a small contribution would be good. In many European states, the leagues are professional,” Ülkü explained.
Various methods have been applied in European countries to enhance women’s football. Football clubs are encouraged to have female teams. Bayern Munich, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Liverpool and Arsenal are among the clubs which have women’s football teams. In Turkey, Fenerbahçe used to have a women’s team but it did not survive long. Ülkü said Turkey’s topflight football clubs do not want to open women’s branches because of a lack of interest and the lack of revenue that can be earned through women’s football.
Name changed from ‘ladies’ to ‘women’
One of the developments regarding women’s football was a change in the name of the league. As it did in the basketball league, the TFF altered the name of the league from Ladies First Division to Women’s First Division on May 4. Other improvements included the federation-sponsored nationwide training programs for young female football players. The federation also earned the bid to host the Under-19 European Women’s Football Championship in Turkey. The tournament will take place in the southwestern province of Muğla in the summer of 2012.