It’s 3:30pm on Wednesday, July 5, and hundreds of children are gathered at the Fair Grounds pitch in Buchanan, Liberia. Over the past six hours, every child has taken Monrovia Football Academy’s academic entrance exam and played 20 minutes of 5v5 football.
Inside a school building adjacent to the pitch sit four Academy staff members, an 8-year-old girl, and the girl’s mother. This young girl has performed exceptionally well on the entrance exam and shown potential on the football pitch, so she has been called for an interview. She rests on the edge of her seat, flipping excitedly through the Academy’s photo book.
Our Executive Director is asking the same questions he will ask 75 more children in interviews across Liberia. Where do you live? How old are you? Which school do you attend? Mama, what do you and your husband do for work?
And then he asks the question everyone in the room has been waiting to hear: Mama, are you okay with your daughter playing football? The girl’s mother answers, and the air in the room evaporates with her words. Frustration sets in – another parent unwilling to let her daughter access a golden opportunity. When asked why she would not like her daughter to play football, she answers, “I do not want my daughter to look like a man.”
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