Girls Taking To the Beautiful Game

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK It seems the era when girls ‘merely trying’ their hand at the male-dominated game of soccer is slowing vanishing as more and more girls take up this sport. Although certain perceptions indeed die hard as there is still name-calling with girls playing the ‘Beautiful Game’ being called “tomboys” or “macho girls”, young girls and women soccer teams have slowly been mushrooming around the country. Recently at the celebrations to mark the country’s 16th independence anniversary, Namibians were entertained to lively soccer matches pitting girls from Khomas in Windhoek and Namib South from Okahandja, against each other. These teams fall under the jurisdiction of the Central Women’s Football Team. Dressed in her red and white T-shirt was the young and energetic 15-year-old Marelle Polster, who is a right-wing midfielder. Having already played in the first half of 45 minutes, she was instructed by the coach to take a rest on the bench. “I used to play soccer with the boys in my neighbourhood and I loved it instantly,” said Marelle smilingly and quickly wiping away the sweat from her forehead. Although she has tried out other sports before such as volleyball, netball and tennis, it turned out that her favourite is soccer. “It feels that it’s a game for me,” she added briefly. With her father Michael Polster himself being a soccer player in his younger days, it’s rather not surprising why this young woman fell in love with football. As the only girl in a family of three, Marelle was very happy when her father encouraged her to pursue this sport at school. ” I guess it’s in the genes,” said Marelle, in between shouting out a word of encouragement to her teammates on the soccer field. She decided to play the sport seriously two years ago when she observed that there were not that many women soccer players in the country. “Maybe I can represent my country by playing soccer at a professional level one day,” said the spirited girl, adding that ever since she joined the Khomas soccer team she’s ignored the stigma or rather the stereotype attached to females playing a so-called male sport. “Agh, boys that call me ‘tomboy’ are just trying to break me down because I play better than them,” she said, adding that she’s been encouraging more of her female schoolmates to join the sport. As the match entered the second half it looked favourable that the Khomas team would win the game. Her team later won 4 – 1 against the equally competent Namib South team. Sixteen-year-old Belinda Mbaindjikua, a Grade 12 learner from Okahandja Secondary School, was overjoyed to be part of the winning team. “It’s so exciting to be the winners,” said Belinda, shouting and clapping loudly. For the past three years, she was honoured for her remarkable prowess – that of being the Top Goal Scorer at School, Junior Sports Woman of the Year and being awarded several other medallions. For most of these soccer players, this is an ideal way of them staying out of trouble and unproductive activities as well. “It keeps you away from clubs, drinking and smoking as well as teenage pregnancies,” said Belinda, who is looking forward to one day representing her country in the women’s national soccer team. By the look of things it becomes apparent that the notion of Namibian women and girls playing soccer is fast gaining momentum in the country. In light of this, coach of the Khomas team Tobias Hermonn said that the time has come to give the female folk a chance to prove their talents in soccer. “Let’s give them attention and work with them. They were ignored in the past and now like today you can see how talented they are. So let’s motivate the girls instead of breaking them down,” said coach Hermonn. He added however that more still needs to be done in encouraging girls in the rural areas to join the sport. Now sixteen years after independence, the grooming of Namibian female soccer players in on the cards and this is becoming a growing phenomenon, where the sport is also being offered to girls at schools throughout the country. “Women have the willpower, discipline and need the encouragement to play soccer because they have potential. Nowadays we can’t underestimate them,” said coach Hermonn with a smile.