Lira City

Lira City: Female footballers mistaken for being queer but ‘their candles burn brighter amid struggles’

(Last Updated On: 24 May 2023)

By Doreen Acipa

Lira, May 24, 2023: Ladies who play football should overlook what society says behind them, stay focused and keep moving, says the team captain of She-Scorpions Sports Club. 

When COVID-19 hit Uganda for close to two years, in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic, the government of Uganda put a lockdown where schools were closed and everything came to a total standstill. 

Children were out of school and back to the community, but most prone were adolescent girls who ended up falling victim to the hands of men who made them pregnant.

In the end, they were dumped to the extent that in the Lango sub-region, a total of 8,891 girls became teenage mothers according to the 2020/2021 Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Services report. 

The saddening report was shared by the assistant district health officer (ADHO) for Lira District, Dr Edmond Aceka.

After the storm, those who got engaged in co-curricular activities like football did not fall prey to the same circumstances.

This was a lifesaver to most of them as they were rehabilitated into the club and through interactions, they got their minds focused. 

Maureen Acak represents one of the thousands of girls who went through the storm but playing football offered her full therapy. 

Maureen Acak, 22, is a team captain of a sports club in Lango sub-region.

Acak is the epitome of the few ladies who play football in Lango where most people think and believe that playing football is only meant for boys and men.

“Playing football helped me to be so active, with no room for idleness. I am always occupied in the pitch and there is no time for boys and sex activities,” Acak added.

Being a female footballer, Acak, however, faced some challenges where she said most men look at her as a very easy-to-get girl and she is called names like lesbian, bisexual and queer. 

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Despite the above stigma, she looks at the brighter side of the coin, a move that ignited a burning flame to eradicate this stereotype from her shadow.

However, despite this, she now feels even more free and more safe playing with her fellow ladies. Some of her friends who are not footballers complain that she does not associate with them but rather chose to stay with men and her fellow “tomboys” as they call her.

Maureen who is a diploma holder in Social Works and Social Administration is also a mother of one. She resumed playing football after three months of giving birth. She says society looks at her as someone who has got nothing important to do and is a time waster.

With an asserted face, Maureen feels football has been a stitch that saved nine in her life that she has found confidence.

“But I kept moving because of the passion I have for the game, whenever I feel that nothing is going right I only go to the pitch and start playing with the ball and get relieved as I will be concentrating and making some calculations and taking some options while playing since football is my daily life,” she narrated.

She is hoping for much more in future and she is aiming to empower the young girls after taking a coaching journey

 She envisions opening up a club in three years to come and ensuring young girls see positivity in football.

“Taking the first step is the hardest but when you have the heart and the passion, nothing will stop you because it all starts within you and with you. When you dare to push on, the future is brighter and everyone can make a difference,” she continued.

At the club level in Uganda today, there are currently three national women’s football competitions. The top tier is the Federation of Uganda Football Association Women’s Super League, the second is the Federation of Uganda Football Association Elite League and there are several regional leagues played in the third tier.

Meanwhile, Regina Lalam, the club president of the She-Scorpions Football Club says the club was established in December 2019 by a group of four with the common goal to develop sports talents in young girls and women who can later develop into professional players.

According to Lalam, She-Scorpions FC is established to gather young girls and women who are sports lovers and help them learn a lot. 

Community outreaches, Lalam reveals are made to conduct counselling and guidance on reproductive health awareness; provide a safe environment to play association football and arrange social activities among the members of the community.

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Regina Lalam.

She-scorpions, which has 25 players between 15-28 years of age has connected more than five young girls who were school dropouts back to sports.

“We are using sports as a means of enhancing the sexual and reproductive health rights of adolescent girls in our community,” Regina says.

Whereas COVID-19 made most of the spotting activities put on hold, “we raised hopes in our girls through phone calls and social media platforms to do regular exercises from home.”

Regina hopes to have a brighter future by taking her club to play in the Elite League by 2024. She urges the community to accept that women can play and manage football and change the narrative that women should not raise their legs beyond their knees as per tradition.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Acipa Doreen and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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