In just a few days, 30 women from 25 countries will summit Mt. Kilimanjaro to break the Guinness World Record for the highest altitude FIFA-regulation football/soccer game ever played, to call for equality, opportunity, and respect for women in sport.
In today’s society, women’s sports remains under-represented in science studies, media coverage, participation, and leadership positions. Female athletes and sports team continue to be under-supported and under-valued. The Equal Playing Field’s (EPF) Altitude Football Project hopes to raise awareness for not only equality in sports, but to “challenge the social norms for girls and women in sport” and acknowledge “the systematic, structured inequality that girls and women face in most aspects of their lives.”
The climb, expected to last seven to ten days, will involve women scaling nearly 6,000 meters (19,330 feet) of Africa’s highest mountain. According to CNN, after reaching the summit they will descend to 18,799 feet and play a 90-minute, 11-a-side match on a volcanic ash pitch at an altitude not attempted before.
The footballers, ranging in age from 18 to 66 years old and representing 20 nationalities, include retired US international Lori Lindsey, former England midfielder Rachel Unitt, ex-Germany international Petra Landers and former Mexico captain Monica Gonzalez.
The fight for women’s equality is not a new topic in sports. In April, the US women’s national soccer team ended a long-running dispute over pay and conditions by agreeing a new deal with US Soccer, the country’s governing body. US women’s hockey threatened to boycott the world championships before agreeing a pay deal just three days before the start of the tournament, while a tennis tournament director was forced to resign in March after saying female players “ride on the coattails of the men.”
Equal Playing Field’s co-founder, Laura Youngson, believes in the power of sports. “Sport brings friendships and community, commitment and leadership, and strength and health. No girl should miss out on those benefits because of her gender.”
I agree completely, but am amazed at the lengths we must continue to go to in order to close the gender gap in sports.