Sudan women's national football team
|Association||Sudan Football Association|
(East & Central Africa)
|FIFA ranking||not ranked|
The Sudan women's national football team is an unofficial, non-Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) recognised team called The Challenge that plays in a domestic competition in Khartoum against teams wearing traditional Muslim garb. It played its first competitive match in 2006. No FIFA recognised senior national team has played a single FIFA-recognised game. The development of a national team faces several challenges common to much of Africa, along with Sudan-specific issues such as religion. There is an additional problem of a fatwa banning the creation of women's teams.
In 1985, few countries in the world had a women's national football team, including Sudan. A FIFA recognised Sudanese national team has never participated in a major regional and international event. As of June 2012[update], the team has not played a single FIFA sanctioned game. The country has never entered the Women's World Cup, competed in the 2010 African Women's Championships, or participated in the 2011 All-Africa Games. As of March 2012, no team from the country appears on FIFA's worldwide ranking, and a national team did not officially exist.
Sudan is one of the only two Muslim countries in the region to have a women's league. According to Mårtensson and Bailey in Fundamentalism in the Modern World Vol 2: Fundamentalism and Communication: Culture, Media and the Public Sphere, the fact that Sudan has a women's league could be critical for the development of a national team. An informal national team called "The Challenge" has been created inside the league. This team refuses to wear the hijab or wear traditional Muslim clothing while playing and is based in Khartoum. The unofficial national team is not recognised by, nor receives support, from the Sudan Football Association. In 2006, the team played its first competitive match. The team was captained by Sara Edward and played against a side from Sudan University that wore traditional garb. The quality of play was not high and the game ended in a 2-0 win for the Challenge team.
The national team continues to lack FIFA recognition. In 2012, the "Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan issued a fatwa (religious order) saying that it is forbidden for the country to create a women's soccer team, deeming it an immoral act", in response to a question from FIFA regarding the feasibility of creating a team. The fatwah suggested that football is a men's sport and women should not participate in it because it challenges the differences between men and women.
Background and development
Women's football in Africa in general faces many challenges, including limited access to education, poverty amongst women in the wider society, and fundamental inequality that occasionally allows for female specific human rights abuses. At the same time, if quality female players in Africa are developed, many leave their home countries to seek greater football opportunities in places such as Northern Europe or the United States. Funding for women's football in Africa is also an issue; most of the funding for women's football and for the women's national teams comes from FIFA, not the national football association.
Inside the Sudan, religion is an issue with growing the game. Most footballers wanting to play are required to wear the hijab and play while fully covered. While football was organised inside the country with 440 men's clubs in 2006, and the first ever women's game being played in the country that year in February between Tahadi and Sudan University at Sports’ City, Sudan University, development was hindered because a fatwa by the Fiqh Council of Islamic in 2006 condemning the creation of a women's league in Sudan. Still, in the South Sudan in 2006, the local government was indicating their support of women's football. By 2009, women's football programmes had been established in the Sudan. That year, there were ten senior women's teams, a school-based competition and a regional competition established. Young girls informally play the game in refugee camps in the Darfur region. Rights to broadcast the 2011 Women's World Cup in the country were bought by Al Jazeera.
The Sudan Football Association, which was founded in 1946, and FIFA affiliated in 1948, was one of the founding members of Confederation of African Football, and continues to be a member of the Confederation. In November 2011, a female association member, Laila Khalid, attended a meeting in South Africa where women's football was discussed, specifically mentioning the problems faced in growing the game in Africa.
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