Women's Football

An equal playing field, atop a mountain

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  • EPF Initiative climb Mount Kilimanjaro for football match
  • Game played is highest ever recorded: at 5729 metres
  • Amazing feat is to raise awareness of gender inequality

Achieving gender equality is a daily challenge, and one which is embodied by many metaphors. 'A long journey', or 'a balancing of the scales'. How about 'climbing a mountain'? The Equal Playing Field (EPF) Initiative have taken this particular analogy and made it come to life. A brave group of women climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa's highest peak, and played the highest altitude game of football in history.

"The playing field is not equal,"  EPF co-founder Lara Youngson said. "We want to use the climb to highlight the gender inequalities faced today by women in sport. Women have fewer opportunities to play sport, get paid less when they do, and don’t get the same coverage or respect in the media. I don’t want to be having this same discussion with my future children."

The group's Altitude Football project climbed the mountain looking to play their game in lung-busting thin air, all in the name of raising awareness for gender equality across the world. In the squad were senior internationals from across the world and a number of retired players who boasted hundreds of international caps between them.

On Saturday 24 June, the group of women from more than 20 countries took part in the full 90 minute match in the crater of Mount Kilimanjaro, at an altitude of 5729 metres. An exciting match, overseen by female FIFA accredited match officials, ultimately ended goalless, with both goalkeepers having outstanding games. 

"We are elated to have made history," Youngson said after the match. "The game, in thin air and on the back of a five hour climb was one of the hardest challenges of my life. However we had incredible team spirit, and it was a joy to play together."

Despite the incredible feat, the climb is the first step on a longer path for the initiative.

"This is just the start," EPF co-founder Erin Blankenship said. "We want every girl to have the opportunity to play this great game and we are excited about what the Equal Playing Field initiative achieves next. Up next is a series of football clinics in a number of countries over the next two years ahead of the Women’s World Cup in France in 2019."

These clinics and training camps will take place in 15 countries after the event has concluded, with the project hoping to reach as many as 1500 girls and women. They aim to provide young women with strong female role models, and a chance to play the game. The best outcome for the next generation would surely be that it will not take a feat of such extraordinary lengths to achieve true gender equality.

A World Record for the Highest Altitude Football game ever played is not where this story ends. Find out more at https://t.co/i67L5hx246 pic.twitter.com/GFAfPeCuMN

— Equal Playing Field (@EPFinitiative) June 18, 2017

Meet (some of) the team
Lori Lindsey
, retired USA midfielder. Played in 2011 WWC, won London 2012 gold
Rachel Unitt, played at 2007 and 2011 WWCs, more than 100 caps for England
Hajar Abulfazl Afghanistan international, currently coaches U-19 team
Zahra Mahmoodi, captain of Afghanistan
Portia Modise, top goalscorer for South Africa (more than 100 goals)
Jacqui Hurford (née Melksham), Australian referee (took charge of 2011 WWC opening match)
Sandrine Dusang, almost 50 caps for France, five French league titles, UWCL title - plays for FCF Juvisy Essone
Petra Landers, played in the first ever German national women's team
Esraa Awad, Egyptian women's footballer of the year in 2010
Monica Gonzalez, 83 caps for Mexico
Sasha Andrews, Canada, played at 2003 WWC

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