TW: The following blog discusses sexual harassment. We understand these topics can be very difficult for many individuals, please care of yourselves and your well-being while reading.
On December 23, the Egyptian national U20 (under-20) women’s football team won a match against Lebanon. However, they received such strong backlash that even at a time they tried to make their country proud, toxic masculinity dragged them down and even threatened to disband the team as a whole.
After the team’s victory, male viewers quickly got online and shamed the girls with countless posts all over social media through sexualizing and antagonizing comments. A couple days after the match, rumors began spreading that the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) was going to ban women’s football in Egypt. This speculation arose after the EFA released a statement stating that they will postpone Egypt’s U20 women’s football teams' next matches “until further notice.” This sparked outrage within the team and among its supporters. Fans took to social media to express their anger and disappointment in the EFA and expressed their support to the team members. Shortly after, the members of the team uploaded a video to their instagram account pleading the EFA not to disband the team. They also requested action to be taken against the harassment they faced online that tormented them the night of the game. Following the release of the team’s video, the EFA announced that the U20 team would not be disbanded. Additionally, a U17 Team would be added to the existing U20 and First Teams. Finally, the EFA also stated that they would replace the coaching staff with a new one.
Egypt’s U20 women’s national football team defeated Lebanon’s team 3-1. After their victory, many users took to social media and attacked, cyber-bullied, and sexually harassed the players, solely for being women who play football.
All the men who commented on this match online didn’t bother congratulating the team on their victory or offered support to them throughout the match. Instead, they repeatedly sexualized the players and hoped that they would “take their tops off and celebrate.” The team’s former assistant manager Mariam El Reweny told Egyptian Streets: “Among the game highlights was an attack made by our team, where one of the players missed a shot to the goal. She was bullied relentlessly online.”
With the bombardment of harassment and bullying, the EFA did not defend their valued players or show their support to the girls in any shape or form. However, this is not random or coincidental. As Egypt’s cultural beliefs are rather oppressive and conservative, some are opposed to the idea of women taking part in an activity that is “meant for men.” This is just one of the thousands of obstacles swana women have to face in order to do what they’re passionate about - which is apparently controversial.
As I have previously stated, the EFA decided to turn a blind eye to the online harassment that their players were going through, which I think is the complete opposite of what they should have done.
Instead of addressing the issue, the EFA decided to terminate the team’s coaching staff and postpone any of their future matches. How could this be the solution to the belittlement of swana women in their achievements? How will this show the cyberbullies that what they did and said was wrong on so many levels? It won’t. Instead, it will actually make them believe that they've achieved something, and it will only feed their male ego to emit more toxic masculinity. These are young athletes- some still can be considered children - from the ages of 14 to 19 who are being asked to get naked on live television. They are being sexualized for wearing a jersey and a pair of shorts, which is also the regular football attire for male players. This is not okay. It’s absolutely unacceptable behaviour for grown men to be sexualizing teenagers and simultaneously shame them for taking part in a sport. This mindset that girls cannot break from their ascribed gender role to play sports basically emits the same energy as “go to the kitchen and make me a sandwich.” The silence of the EFA passively accepts the sexualization of young girls - not just the players, but young girls all over the country. This makes whistling at a 13 year-old in her school uniform by her school campus okay. This makes it okay for a grown man to grope a 14 year-old while standing behind her in a line at the cinema.
The EFA’s silence gives a voice to those who shouldn't be heard.
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