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Muslim Women Tackle Australian Football - Auburn Tigers Women’s AFC

  • Saturday, June 11 2011 @ 07:03 pm ACST
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General News

In the rugby league heartlands of Sydney’s western suburbs, a football team called the Auburn Tigers has sprung up. The Auburn Tigers are from a variety of backgrounds, mostly Lebanese, and train to a backdrop of the Gallipoli Mosque towers. Against the odds, they were extremely successful, winning the premiership in their first season. However, the guys are not the only team that trains here- encouraged by the success of the men’s team, a women’s team has also started up.

Like the guys team, the Auburn Tigers women’s team are predominantly Muslim. There are also Fijian, Bosnian, Turkish, Afghan and some white girls there too. Though some girls may be from secular backgrounds, how on earth does a girl from a traditional Lebanese or Afghan Muslim family go out on the oval tackling, kicking and engaging in all the other physical aspects of football? The answer is simple- a specially designed kit, including full length skins, knee length shorts and a headscarf which the girls’ Captain, Amna Karra-Hassan, assures doesn’t slip off during the game. They also have a strategy in case a headscarf incident does occur, to make the girl feel comfortable and able to get it back on quickly.

Because of the cultural requirements of the women’s team, they ask the men to stay away from training on Wednesdays, but the greater problem to overcome is finding a coach. Experienced female coaches are thin on the ground even in the football heartlands of Victoria, and so far the girls have been unable to find a suitable one. To overcome this, their captain has learnt some drills and tactics from the guys team to help her coach the girls, and despite some of them never having seen a game of footy on the TV before, they are enjoying the game and their skills are improving.

Though these girls are probably just concentrating on their game, they are an important symbol of hope for international women’s football as the men’s game continues its march around the world, that when football takes hold in the middle east and Muslim countries in South East Asia and Europe, the women and girls in those countries can follow the example of the Auburn Tigers and start a team and league of their own.

But it’s not only internationally where the Tigers’ example of breaking down social and cultural barriers can make a difference. When the Iranians announced they had a women’s rugby union team it took the world by surprise, that a country often thought of to be symbolising oppression of women could be more advanced than some western countries in promoting women’s sports, especially considering the cultural barriers and religious requirements of the women. Now there’s a new group of female Muslim pioneers, similarly dressed in full length sports clothing and tight headscarves, with pride and determination evident on their faces, ball in hand and ready to tackle head on the equally great male-female social barriers of football in Australia.

Here’s more about the Tigers and their amazing story: