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Female footballers to climb Kilimanjaro to play highest match in history

Category: Sport 
2017-06-14

Throughout history sportswomen have had to climb metaphorical mountains: pushing boundaries for the right to compete, confounding critics to reach their sporting summit.

 

 

But, for many, the fight for equality is ongoing, which is why a group of women are to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and attempt to break the world record for the highest game of competitive football played.

 


Over the course of seven to 10 days, the women will scale nearly 6,000 meters (19,330 feet) of Africa's highest mountain.

 

After reaching the summit, they will descend to 18,799 feet and play a 90-minute, 11-a-side match on a volcanic ash pitch at an altitude not attempted before.

 


'Men aren't climbing for equality'

Through the organization Equal Playing Field, and various crowd funding pages, the women have been raising money for the mission which must accommodate players, FIFA referees, coaches, a medical team and support crew.

 

Lindsey -- who is aiming to raise $9,000 on her GoFundMe page -- said the fact that fundraising was necessary highlighted the disparity between men and women.

"Men, in general, aren't raising money for equality," said the 37-year-old, who made 31 appearances for her national team.

"Men aren't climbing for equality. They have it."


In April, the US women's national soccer team ended a long-running dispute over pay and conditions by agreeing a new deal with US Soccer, the country's governing body.

The world champions had long claimed the men's national team unjustly earned more and five high-profile players -- Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo -- filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March alleging wage discrimination.

That is not the only case this year of international sportswomen taking a stand.

Also in April, the Republic of Ireland women's football team threatened to go on strike. Players' representative, Stuart Gilhooly, said they were being treated like "fifth-class citizens" by the Football Association of Ireland.

And it is not only in football that the debate over equality is ongoing.

US women's hockey threatened to boycott the world championships before agreeing a pay deal just three days before the start of the tournament, while a tennis tournament director was forced to resign in March after saying female players "ride on the coattails of the men."

 


Helping around the world

Equal Playing Field had said it wanted to "challenge the social norms for girls and women in sport" and acknowledge "the systematic, structured inequality that girls and women face in most aspects of their lives."

Laura Youngson, Equal Playing Field's co-founder, said: "We want to break a record to inspire other women and girls to keep challenging the inequalities in sport.

"Sport brings friendships and community, commitment and leadership, and strength and health. No girl should miss out on those benefits because of her gender."

 

After descending, the group will hold a series of football training clinics throughout the year for women and girls in up to 15 countries.

From June 30 through to November, they will pass on their knowledge to girls in South Africa, Argentina, Zambia, Mexico, Dubai, Beijing and the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

"Inequality, whether directly or not, affects me every single day," said Lindsey.

"We're making headway in the States and, for us, our next step is to make a major impact in other parts of the world that need support and help in progressing women's football.

"You look at Thailand at the 2015 World Cup, they were wearing hand-me-downs from the men's teams.

"There's a discussion around whether or not we should expand the Women's World Cup from 16 teams to 24.

"Some people say getting beat 10-0 doesn't help women's soccer, that it makes it look bad. But it highlights the discrepancies between the men's and women's programmes and we need to do that to make strides forwards.

 

"Even Brazil, who have been to World Cups and done well, there are huge discrepancies between their men's and women's programmes.

"The more this is in the public, the more people know about it, it helps generate support for the movement."

 

The footballers, representing 20 nationalities, include retired US international Lori Lindsey, former England midfielder Rachel Unitt, ex-Germany international Petra Landers and former Mexico captain Monica Gonzalez.

 

Ranging in ages, from 18 to 66 years old, the players will embark on the trip on June 15 and, weather permitting, play their match either on June 24 or 25.

 

Lindsey, who played for USA at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 London Olympics, said their aim was to raise awareness of the issues women and girls face when playing sport.

"I'm fortunate enough to have had pioneers who came before me, but it's our responsibility to continue to make strides forward for the generations to come," she told CNN Sport.

Lindsey said she had not undertaken any special training for the task ahead, but the challenge will be far from easy.

Playing in thin air causes a reduction in physical performance and in May 2007, FIFA -- football's world governing body -- introduced a temporary ban, revoked a year later, on international matches at more than 8,200ft above sea level, citing concerns about players' health and the "unfair" advantage to acclimatized home teams.

Earlier in 2007, Brazilian club Flamengo had said it would boycott high-altitude games after a match at 12,467 ft (3,800m) against Bolivia's Real Potosi left some team members needing oxygen.

 

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