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article imagePioneer soccer program providing opportunities for girls Special

By Farid Abdulhamid     Apr 11, 2015 in Sports
Toronto - Girl soccer has remained virtually absent in marginalized communities. But the game is finally finding traction at Toronto's West End, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Hanan Warsame, a young visionary ex-soccer player now turned coach.
In an exclusive interview with the Digital Journal’s Farid Abdulhamid at the popular, award-winning, Istar restaurant known for its authentic Somali cuisine, Hanan reflected upon her colourful soccer roots and highlighted the reasons behind the establishment of the Toronto girls’ team.
Born in scenic Mogadishu in 1990, Hanan grew up in the Netherlands, where she played soccer from the age of 4. After moving to Toronto, she voluntarily started coaching various FC Horseed youth boys teams for about 6 months before creating much-needed space for girls’ soccer.
Under the banner of Toronto Girls Soccer Association (TGSA) that she founded, the beautiful and eloquent young coach and team manager is developing girl talent and providing avenues through which her players can showcase their soccer artistry and eventually compete in girl-oriented tournaments. According to TGSA, girls can throughout the year, enjoy and play soccer indoors and out. It provides a great environment for girls to be comfortable and at ease.
TGSA girls in action.
TGSA girls in action.
TGSA
The TGSA further states that their program is more than just soccer, “it is a program for girls to be more confident, healthy, disciplined, and most important have fun!”
The East-African Canadian community retains deep passion for soccer and community-organized tournaments draw players and fans alike to well-attended summer events routinely held at the Centennial Park and other Toronto venues. The annual Somali Week for example, brings together elite soccer teams from across Canada, Europe and North America to compete in a scintillating tournament that serves as the community’s major soccer extravaganza in Canada.
Whenever major global events like the World Cup, Euro Nations and the African Cup of Nations are relayed on cable and satellite TV, popular community restaurants become jam-packed with ardent fans rooting for their favourite teams or clubs. Despite such a rich sporting tradition in their community, Somali-Canadians girls had nowhere to turn to when it came to playing soccer.
Prior to TGSA’s initiative, girls in the community were virtually absent from the soccer scene, even though recent evidence points to a thriving, but albeit hidden talent among this largely overlooked group. Like their mainstream Canadian counterparts, Somali girls can kick, head and pass the ball around as well as dribble through defences and score goals. In making soccer accessible to them, TGSA’s program is meant to provide Somali girls as well as other youthful girls in the community with a platform through which they can develop their talent and ultimately compete in future tournaments.
Coach Hanan is not a newcomer to the sport. She grew up in a soccer family and actively played for a club in the Netherlands prior to her University years. She was a versatile player meaning she could effectively play in different positions, particularly in midfield and attack. But due to lack of a girls-specific team in her Dutch neighbourhood, she was forced to play in a boys’ team. At a tender age, she started playing in the same team with her brother. Later on, a girls’ team was formed, which she joined.
Hanan took a break from playing during her University studies to focus on her post-secondary education.
Like in the Netherlands, Hanan’s involvement in the Toronto soccer arena began with a boys’ team but this time, in a coaching capacity.
Coach Hanan Warsame.
Coach Hanan Warsame.
TGSA
She realized that young Somali girls yearning for soccer action were unfairly left in the sport wilderness.
“During my coaching stint, I noticed little girls sitting on the sidelines who could not play as they lacked the platform to do so. They approached me and posed the big question; why not coach us?” she said.
Sensing the need to address the gender gap in the game, Hanan took the important initiative to set up a girls’ team in her community.
Based in Toronto’s West End, the team currently trains at the Kipling Collegiate Institute every Tuesdays starting at 6:00pm and Saturdays, 3:00- 6:00pm. The team’s colourful logo is representative of both the girls Somali and Canadian heritage.
Hanan reminds the public that girl sport should not be considered a deviant act.
“I believe girls from Muslim background including those from my community can actually play without fear as long as their sporting activities do not interfere with the tenets of their faith. With this in mind, I have established a team that plays in a culturally appropriate sporting gear (uniform) that does not conflict with the Islamic dress code” pointed out Hanan whose team dons long sleeve pants and shirts for a safe and comfortable playing experience.
The program admits girls ages 5-14 who never had the opportunity to play the game before.
“This is a team where only girls are the main priority since there are already many boys’ teams around” said Hanan, adding “The girls are loving it and enjoying it. They love the sport and have passion for the game.”
In future, Hanan hopes to lead her team beyond the confines of her community to help the girls experience the joy of competing in a cross-cultural, multi-cultural environment.
Soccer, Hanan notes, will serve as a healthy pastime for the sports-deprived girls.
“Instead of girls spending 24 hours on the internet, our soccer program will grant them the opportunity to play. It will preoccupy them with a culturally-appropriate activity in line with their faith. The sport is equally important for their fitness and overall health and well-being” observed Hanan.
During the March Break, TGSA hosted a fun-filled evening for the girls and their families in a well- attended festivity held at Istar Restaurant that sponsored the colorful event.
Coach Hanan Warsame (Right) and the girls in a festive mood during the March Break celebrations.
Coach Hanan Warsame (Right) and the girls in a festive mood during the March Break celebrations.
TGSA
Hodan Nalayey, the popular host of Integration TV and sponsor of the girls’ team says she was compelled to support Hanan.
“When young people do something meaningful in the community, no one steps up. I believe that when a young person like Hanan takes an initiative, we must support them and encourage them in their critically important work. That’s why I decided to sponsor her team” she said.
Coach Hanan Warsame and her players are joined by sponsor Hodan Nalayeh of Integration TV.
Coach Hanan Warsame and her players are joined by sponsor Hodan Nalayeh of Integration TV.
TGSA
For more info: www.torontogsa.com
Follow TGSA on social media:
Facebook: /torontogsa
Twitter: /torontogsa
Instragram: /torontogsa
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