Photos: Kurdish women win big with Syria football title

With their medals around their necks, Samar Sheikh and her teammates even went on a celebratory tour of Amuda, where part of the autonomous Kurdish administration is headquartered, joined in dance by residents congratulating them and asking for selfies. Syrian society is still largely patriarchal and conservative but women enjoy greater gender equality in areas under Kurdish control. Still, Sheikh's neighbours would tell her football was not for girls but the criticism stopped when her team won the very first women's championship in Syria.

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST 10 Photos
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Samar Sheikh takes part in a practice session with her teammates in the northeastern Syrian town of Amuda in Hasakeh province. Samar Sheikh’s neighbours used to tell her football was not for girls but the criticism stopped when her team won the very first women’s championship in Syria. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

Samar Sheikh takes part in a practice session with her teammates in the northeastern Syrian town of Amuda in Hasakeh province. Samar Sheikh’s neighbours used to tell her football was not for girls but the criticism stopped when her team won the very first women’s championship in Syria. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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“I used to watch my brothers play and I’ve watched a lot of games,” she told AFP, as her teammates, all wearing fluorescent bibs, jogged behind the coach on the artificial grass of the covered pitch. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

“I used to watch my brothers play and I’ve watched a lot of games,” she told AFP, as her teammates, all wearing fluorescent bibs, jogged behind the coach on the artificial grass of the covered pitch. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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The 20-year-old (pictured) also finished top scorer at the end of a season that saw teams from all over Syria face off over weeks before the final that was held in late January in Damascus. “I’ve been hooked on football since I was little,” Sheikh said during a training session in Amuda, a town in northeastern Syria where part of the autonomous Kurdish administration is headquartered. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

The 20-year-old (pictured) also finished top scorer at the end of a season that saw teams from all over Syria face off over weeks before the final that was held in late January in Damascus. “I’ve been hooked on football since I was little,” Sheikh said during a training session in Amuda, a town in northeastern Syria where part of the autonomous Kurdish administration is headquartered. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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Members of the Amuda women's team in a training session. The young Kurdish woman, sweat pearling down her face and her ruffled hair in a ponytail, recounted how she started playing when she was 15 but had to stop “because of the criticism from her family and neighbours.” (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

Members of the Amuda women's team in a training session. The young Kurdish woman, sweat pearling down her face and her ruffled hair in a ponytail, recounted how she started playing when she was 15 but had to stop “because of the criticism from her family and neighbours.” (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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Members of the Amuda women's team listen to directions from their coach. Sheikh came back to it more determined than ever to overcome social and gender prejudice and it all paid off when it was with cheers that a crowd greeted her and her team off the bus after winning the national trophy. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

Members of the Amuda women's team listen to directions from their coach. Sheikh came back to it more determined than ever to overcome social and gender prejudice and it all paid off when it was with cheers that a crowd greeted her and her team off the bus after winning the national trophy. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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Members of the Amuda women's team during practice. Dalaf Hussein, another team member, faced the same challenges as a teenage girl trying to live her passion for football in northeastern Syria. Plastered on the walls of her room are posters of her favourite players, including one of Portuguese legend and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

Members of the Amuda women's team during practice. Dalaf Hussein, another team member, faced the same challenges as a teenage girl trying to live her passion for football in northeastern Syria. Plastered on the walls of her room are posters of her favourite players, including one of Portuguese legend and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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“Passersby used to bother us when they saw us play in the street because it was considered a boys’ sport, but we never paid attention,” she told AFP. Hussein said she also had to deal with her parents’ opposition to her playing football. “But after our victory in the championship, there was no pushback,” she said, with a chuffed smile. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

“Passersby used to bother us when they saw us play in the street because it was considered a boys’ sport, but we never paid attention,” she told AFP. Hussein said she also had to deal with her parents’ opposition to her playing football. “But after our victory in the championship, there was no pushback,” she said, with a chuffed smile. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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Samar Sheikh and her teammates are greeted upon their return from a football tournament in Damascus. With their medals around their necks, Sheikh and her teammates even went on a celebratory tour of Amuda, joined in dance by residents congratulating them and asking for selfies. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “Seeing all these people in the street to celebrate our victory.” (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

Samar Sheikh and her teammates are greeted upon their return from a football tournament in Damascus. With their medals around their necks, Sheikh and her teammates even went on a celebratory tour of Amuda, joined in dance by residents congratulating them and asking for selfies. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “Seeing all these people in the street to celebrate our victory.” (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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A Syrian man plays the mizmar, a traditional wind instrument, as he welcomes the Amuda women's team. Syrian society is still largely patriarchal and conservative but women enjoy greater gender equality in areas under Kurdish control. Hussein said she hopes football will continue to grow in her region. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

A Syrian man plays the mizmar, a traditional wind instrument, as he welcomes the Amuda women's team. Syrian society is still largely patriarchal and conservative but women enjoy greater gender equality in areas under Kurdish control. Hussein said she hopes football will continue to grow in her region. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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Members of the Amuda women's team carry the winner's cup as they are greeted by locals. After a week-long break the team has resumed training for two hours a day. “Many girls have come to sign up since our victory,” she said. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

Members of the Amuda women's team carry the winner's cup as they are greeted by locals. After a week-long break the team has resumed training for two hours a day. “Many girls have come to sign up since our victory,” she said. (Delil Souleiman / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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