KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Orjuan Essam and Elham Beltone have caught the limelight in Sudan’s nascent professional Women’s Football.
Both of them have falsified the notion that women’s football has no place in an ultraconservative society as that of Sudan.
The first, Orjuan, though very modest, shy and less sociable, is a different person on the pitch: hard to contain by rival players and when there is an advantage, she sweeps through towards the foe’s goal, either to score or assist in ball nettings, regardless of her strictly defined job in the defense of her Altahadi (Challenge) team.
The other, Beltone, is an outspoken defender of women’s right to play football. This mental set up seems to have given her the necessary attacking ferocity. Coupled with her bodily strength and her talent, her daring personality has helped her to score goals for her team Aldifa’a (The Defense), leading them to a series of victories.
She was voted Best Women's Player of the year 2020.
Orjuan says she loved football as a child. She used to play with five of her male cousins in her extended family’s home yard. Now a third grader of dental medicine at the private Avicenna University here, she says determined not to lose either occupation.
As a teenager she shyly avoids talking about marriage and raising a family. “My obsession now centers on my education and football,“ she has told a recent interviewer. She says her future as a dentist is what matters. She said at the beginning she and her fellow women footballers were so frightened at the new experiment of playing in front of audiences. But when they saw the public enthusiasm, all fear was gone and matches became a sort of routine for them.
This may be true if we consider the large crowds the women matches attract two years after the Sudan has authorized the game in response to (or pressure from!) the World football governing body, the FIFA.
In addition to football, Orjuan practices swimming and basketball, but her passion for football knows no boundaries. She does not deny that football is a tough sport but, she argues, if the player has the necessary skills and keeps practicing, all this toughness will be gone and the player can avoid unnecessary injuries. “I was hurt on some occasions and this is natural and cannot stop me from playing. I learn from my injuries,” she said in reply to another question.
She said hopeful to find a chance to play outside the Sudan as a professional player "to raise my country’s name on international forums.”
Orjuan has acknowledged the backing she received from her father Essam and her grandfather Abdelfattah “who always stood by my side and encouraged me to keep going.” My mother was also always by my side, she said.
She said this second edition of the Women’s football cup tournament has received wide public attention “despite the euphoria that surrounded the first edition,” a reference to outcries from misinformed fanatics who portrayed the game as a call for indecent dressing and waywardness. As it happens on the pitch, the girls are dressed in arm-concealing shirts and modest trousers.
Orjuan’s mother Manal Abdelfattah is hopeful that her daughter would succeed in both her medical studies and football.
Player Elham Belton, in addition to her entertaining skills on the playground, has recently entertained the fans by performing Sudan’s traditional ragaba dance in the stadium after her Aldifa’a team won a critical match. ”I love to dance and my fellow teammates are, first of all, my friends. Very often we dance together on social occasions,” she says. Before the match, I promised my teammates to perform the ragaba dance if we defeat our archrivals Alkaranak team. I like this dance too much,” she further commented on the incident.
In the ragaba dance, a woman throws back her head and puts forward here breast with the neck moving right and left. The word ragaba translates ‘neck’ in Arabic.
Player Elham said on the pitch she is very cool and “I often urge my team members not to be agitated for any reason and just concentrate on the ball.”
She says two editions of the women’s football league, many things have changed. “The public now accepts women’s football as a fact of life. All that bullying and sarcasm with which we were received in the first edition is gone. After all, I am a football player and for that I should ignore all insults and narrow mindedness on the part of some sectors of the society.”
Commenting on the notion that some spectators go to the stadium just to see the beauty of some players and not for football, she said that was true at first. “The majority of the public were not aware about the existence of a women’s football tournament. But after they followed the previous season, they started to come to the stadium in big numbers because of the players’ high standard. But some spectators often comment that these beauties are too delicate to practice such a tough sport as football,” she said.
Elham said she will not desert football for marriage. ”My brother has warned me that as long as I play football, nobody will propose to me and I told him that is exactly what I want. I will not quit football for marriage,” she defiantly said.
Orjuan defines in Arabic as ‘purple’, possibly in reference to a purple flower, while Elham means ‘inspiration’! Other shining names on the Sudanese football pitches include Ezdihar and Rayyan, both of whom are seen as magnets for football fans.
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