Qatar 2022 was the World Cup that women and Muslim football fans needed 

(HANNAH MCKAY) Yasmin Abdullahi, Sisterhood’s Somali-British founder, chases her team mate Assma Asif, 25, during a training session in Hyde Park, in London. Abdullahi recalled the surprise of many fellow female Muslim students when she told them she was playing football. “They could not believe that they were seeing a girl in a hijab and saying that she plays football.” So she set up the club as a way to reconcile the interest in playing sport among many Muslim women and their adherence to their faith. For Abdullahi, the most important achievement of the club is the sense of togetherness among its members, many of whom have become friends. “I think the thing that honestly brings tears to my eyes is the fact that we’ve actually built our little community. The name Sisterhood FC, it’s not by accident like we have literally built a sisterhood.”

The world’s most-watched sporting event raised the profile of female and Muslim participation in football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 promises further progress for the sport, says Sisterhood FC co-founder Yasmin Abdullahi

The past few years have proven somewhat of a watershed for women’s football, growing from a slow trickle in the public consciousness to a steady roar with the Lionesses finally ‘bringing it home’ during the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022. To top it off, the World Cup in Qatar was the best in the tournament’s history for female and Muslim football fans alike.

For someone like me, who happens to be both a female football supporter and a practicing Muslim, last year’s World Cup was exactly what was needed to improve inclusion in the sport. 

The event highlighted how diverse the global fanbase truly is and showed how things could perhaps be done differently to accommodate all football fans and to create a more inclusive atmosphere at the games.

(HANNAH MCKAY) Fatima Ali, 26, prays between matches during the Ladies Super Liga 5aside tournament at The Colombo Centre in London. Ali said some families struggled to understand at first why their young women members wanted to play sport. “I think a lot of people have approved of it” she said “But it’s still going to take time, it’s not just a one step process. Even your brothers might be like what’s the point of you going all the way from west London to south east but I’ll be like ‘I enjoy playing, we’ve got a team, this is it, we’ve got a match, we’ve got to do this.”

Whether it was the designated prayer spaces made available to fans, or the Moroccan team’s proud hijab-wearing mothers celebrating their sons’ victories on the pitch – watching the world’s largest sporting fixture being hosted by a Muslim nation for the first time finally made the tournament feel relevant and inclusive for many of us.

Even the assumption that football and drinking must go hand in hand has been debunked by women who were at the World Cup matches, saying on social media that the lack of alcohol at the tournament made them feel safer. 

Navigating stadium environments where alcohol is being consumed can often be an uncomfortable experience, and it’s been interesting to see fans closer to home echo this, with some – like Shaista Aziz from The Three Hijabis – even calling for a booze ban at Premier League games.

(HANNAH MCKAY) Team members huddle during a Sisterhood FC training session at Dockland Settlements Community Centre in London. “It’s a football club for Muslim women to come and feel free and relaxed and play in their attire.” Kamara Davis, 30 said. She converted to Islam at age 17 and felt that she would never play football again because it seemed incompatible with the religion’s traditional dress. But when she heard about Sisterhood FC, she jumped at the chance to join. “Honestly, it just feels so good, it’s like a release. It feels really nice when I am able to shoot the ball with power.” Kamara said.

Women’s Visibility

It’s also been really inspiring to see over the past four or so years how much more visible women’s football has become on a global stage, and that progress now seems to be snowballing. Not so long ago, football stadiums in England were full of men, but that’s not the case anymore. Female players and fans are becoming more vocal and taking up more space in the sport than ever before.

This is an exciting time for the women’s game and I’m really happy to be a part of it. We’ve never had this amount of acceptance, and certainly not this level of prominence, for the sport before. It’s something that I never thought I would see.

(HANNAH MCKAY) Fatima Ali, 26, and Sara Taleghani, 25, video-call Yasmin Abdullahi, the founder of Sisterhood FC, to celebrate their first won match, at The Colombo Centre in London. Sara Sara Taleghani said she struggled to reconcile her faith and her hopes of playing sports when she was at school in Ireland.”I constantly had coaches trying to compromise my religion.” Teachers used to say that her head scarf posed a hazard and they insisted she wore shorts. “I think that’s the reason I stopped playing sports at school.” Taleghani said she was encouraged to see other Muslim women’s football teams but she had a sense of regret that some players of her generation will never fulfil their potential, given how recently they were given the chance to play. “If there had been spaces like this when we were growing up, I know a few girls who would have made it as pros.” she said.

The strides made by the Lionesses last year were a joy to witness. With their success last summer, and the likes of French woman Stéphanie Frappart leading the way as the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match, it feels like women in football are at last claiming the spotlight, and young girls finally have role models to look up to, playing the game that they love on an international stage.

Fans of men’s football in England have sung ‘it’s coming home’ at international games for a long time now but it was the Lionesses who lifted England to victory last year. 

Those high-profile victories have an immediate impact at a local level as well, especially for grassroots organisations like Sisterhood FC. After successes like the Lionesses’ Euros win, we had a significant uptick in the number of people interested in joining our club, something that’s really inspiring to see.

With football now the most played team sport for women and girls in England, there’s huge potential for groups like Sisterhood FC to continue growing.

Qatar 2022 was a massively important event for women’s football and Muslim fans as a whole, showing that we can operate at the highest levels of the game. I hope that another Muslim country will be given the opportunity to host a World Cup soon. When that happens, I’ll be there.

With the upcoming UK Government review into the future of domestic women’s football, the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer, and our Sisterhood FC group steadily growing, the year ahead is set to be full of opportunity for women’s football. 

(HANNAH MCKAY) Sisterhood FC team members practice during a training session at Dockland Settlements Community Centre in London.
Sisterhood FC, a female only football club in London is giving Muslim women a chance to shine on the sports field, something they have long felt was not an option for them because of cultural issues ranging from the wearing of head scarves to the need to observe prayer times. Buoyed by a surge in interest in women’s football, Sisterhood FC has grown to almost 100 players. Some say the club has helped them to take their first steps in sport. Others say it has broken barriers in their home life regarding the traditional roles of women.

Want to know more about Sisterhood FC? Check them out on instagram: Sisterhood FC



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