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The Somali Women Who Have Defied Societal Norms

“We cannot openly say we are going to play. We put our playing clothes and shoes in school bags and carry them that way to the field and we pretend we are going to school or university,” said Fardawsa Omar Ahmed, a university graduate who also plays volleyball and football. Her family used to discourage her from playing, but now they accept it, she said. The women only play in compounds behind high concrete walls, which shield them from the gaze of the curious or those who might attack them. One of the coaches, Suham Hassan Sobran, played as a child before civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991. She restarted in 2009, when the Islamist Al-Shabaab insurgency still controlled large swathes of the city.