KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Female football coach Salma Almajdi (27) says she has chosen not to think about marriage for the time being in order to keep up with training Sudanese youths.
Contrary to the norms, Salma trains men rather than training players from her own sex.
According to the website of the African Football Confederation (CAF), Salma is the only woman to coach males in Africa and the Arab World. This has set her as a pioneer in this field.
Salma Catches World Attention
In December 2015, Salma was noted in the BBC Arabic's 100 inspirational women of the year.
Of late the Sudan Football Association (SFA) received an official letter from the World football Governing body (FIFA) that Salma was chosen to become a coach ‘with special specifications’ to be preceded by a qualifying course, beginning in October. The SFA said the FIFA, in its letter, has assigned an expert coach to closely train Salma for a long period. To this effect, a training programme was laid for Salma that spans over several weeks annually, both inside and outside Sudan.
Salma is the first woman to obtain the certificate of football lecturer after she concluded a training course organized by the CAF for female coaches in the capital of Cameron, Yaoundé, in 2016. She had reportedly met the specification for attending that course because she was the only female to officially train an all-male football team and to compete with such a team in an official contest. That was the team of Alnasr Third Division Club of Omdurman, Khartoum’s Twin City across the River Nile.
Accordingly, Salma obtained the African "B" badge in coaching, meaning she can coach any first league team across the Continent.
"Why football? Because it is my first and ultimate love," said Salma, clad in sports gear and a black headscarf, as she led players of the Alahly Algedaref club at a practice session in the town of Gedaref, Eastern Sudan.
Daughter of a retired policeman, Salma was 16 when she fell in love with football.
It came about as she watched her younger brother's school team being coached. She was
captivated by the coach's instructions, his moves, and how he placed the marker cones at practice sessions.
"At the end of every training session, I discussed with the coach, Tala’at Ismail, the techniques he used to coach the boys," she said. "He saw I had a knack for coaching... and gave me a chance to work with him."
Salma has now decided to pool all her effort to train young players. Her ambition does not stop at the Sudanese playgrounds. She says welcomes any external offer through which she can “show the bright face of the Sudanese football.”
Salma had started coaching males with the youth team of Giants Alhilal, after she coached Alhilal’s players under 16. Then she moved to teams recognized by the local Khartoum Football Union when she trained the Almawrada team and then she became manager of Alnasr team and some others.
Football fans were taken by surprise to see Salma train a general tournament team. That was the Alnahda team in the town of Rebek, Central Sudan.
A Chat With Salma
Sudanow has conducted a brief interview with Coach Salma in which she said she was carrying the hopes and expectations of Sudanese football fans in winning cups and that she hopes to see the national football team in the biggest international football forums. Interview:
Q: How did the players and fans receive you on the football playgrounds and how would you face fan zealotry?
A: I thoroughly well know how to deal with players and the fans. But as for zealotry, I don’t care about it and accept criticism with an open heart.
Q: Your selection by the BBC among the most influential 100 women in the world has put you under world attention. Was this choice because of your success as a sportswoman or was it because of your daring character as a coach?
A: My selection was because of my choosing the football career, my success in this career and the acceptance I received from the public.
Q: Did you get married and in case the answer is ‘no’, did you receive marriage offers and also please tell us about your specifications for your future husband and whether you will quit football when you get married?
A: I am not married and so far I did not find a suitable bidder. I have turned down some marriage offers because those bidders could not understand the nature of my work. I will decide upon the suitable person at the right time. Football coaching is my priority at the moment.
Q: How does the society see and accept you as a football coach?
A: The society did not accept me with ease. I was faced with harsh criticism. Nevertheless, there were others who accepted and encouraged me. But because of my discretion and effort, everybody now accepts me.
Q: Do you interact with the public on the social media?
A: I interact very much with the public through these outlets.
Q: Your selection for training by the FIFA, what does it mean to you?
A: The FIFA choice was a good thing for me. It is an immense responsibility through which I will strive to reflect a good image of the Sudanese coach, contrary to the negative attitude some have about our football.
Q: Would you accept to train teams outside the Sudan?
A: Yes and that is a natural thing. My ambition knows no limits.
Q: Where did you acquire your experience?
A: Experiences are usually acquired through continuous work. However, I cannot forget the effort of Coach Tal’at Ismail. He was the first to help me in training. Football Expert Ahmed Babiker had also always helped me.
Q: Challenges that faced you as a coach?
A: My biggest challenge was how to assert my character, preserve my gains as a coach and how to succeed as a woman in a totally masculine domain.
Q: How would you see women sports in the Sudan?
A: Women sports lacks care and attention.
Q: Is it true that football is a masculine sport?
A: Sports of all sorts suit both males and females and football is now normally practiced by women.
Q: How would you perceive the participation of women in refereeing male football matches?
A: Football is the game of courage and the one decision. It requires a strong character to become a referee. The referee has to know all the details of the game and its laws. By that a woman can steer any completion, for males or females.
Q: How do you perceive the experiment of Ms. Hanan Khalid who became chairperson of Almawrada Football Club?
A: I respect Hanan Khalid too much. She is an example of a successful woman. I hope she would make a strong return to the Mawrada administration.
Q: How do you live your experiment and would it be confined to the training of youth teams?
A: My experiment is fine and I find myself in it. I am happy about what I am doing and strive to beat the challenges and move to higher levels.
Q: What about the players you have trained: Did any of them find their way towards stardom?
A: Many of my players now play in the premier league and the first, second and third divisions.
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