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GAME CHANGER: Sudanese Woman Defies Cultural Stereotypes To Become Coach Of Men’s Football Team

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Salma El Majidi is the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men’s football team in the Arab world (Ashraf Shazli/AFP)

Salma El Majidi is the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men’s football team in the Arab world.

Named in the BBC’s 2015 list of “100 inspirational women”, Majidi has coached the Sudanese second league men’s clubs of Al-Nasr, Al-Nahda, Nile Halfa and Al-Mourada. 

Nile Halfa and Al-Nahda even topped local leagues under her coaching. She currently holds the African “B” badge in coaching, meaning she can coach any first league team across the continent.

“I became a coach because there is still no scope for women’s football in Sudan,” El Majidi told an AFP reporter in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref where she trains players of the El Ahly El Gedaref club.

Women’s football has faced an uphill task since the country adopted Islamic sharia law in 1983.

There is no legal ban on women’s football in Sudan, but a conservative society coupled with the Islamist leanings of the government have left it in the shadows.

Women do play football but there are no competitions or women’s clubs, and they do not play much in public.

“There are restrictions on women’s football, but I’m determined to succeed,” Majidi, whose dream is to coach an international team, said, as her players kicked up clouds of dust practicing free kicks.

Culture Shock

“There was this one boy who refused to listen. He told me he belongs to a tribe that believed men should never take orders from women,” she said.

It took months before he finally accepted her as coach. “Today, he is a fine player,” said Majidi, who works full-time and receives a salary that is equivalent to that of a male coach. 

Majidi said her entrance to what was a male preserve is just a start.

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