Against all odds: South Sudan’s daring drive on women’s football | Football

South Sudan gained independence in 2011 and its history is so short that it is a regular low-scoring answer on the popular quiz show Pointless. Much less trivially, for a majority of its existence the country has been in civil war, with peace and a new national unity government in place only from February of this year.

For a country clawing its way back from the devastating effects of a conflict that has seen hundreds of thousands killed and 1.5 million internally displaced, where nearly half of girls are married by 18, child marriages are increasing and sexual violence was used tactically during the war , it would be easy to assume that football, let alone women’s football, would be nonexistent.

Yet on Friday, just over a year after its women’s national team competed for the first time, the South Sudan Football Association launched a four-year strategy for women’s and girls’ football, Stars Unite, that aims to increase the number of participants by at least 70%.

South Sudan captain Amy Lasu



South Sudan’s captain, Amy Lasu. ‘Football has been considered a men’s sport,’ she says. Photograph: South Sudan FA

South Sudan, where women were at the heart of the peace drive and a 35% quota has been set for women’s participation in government, is not an outlier: the idea that women should not play football is as prevalent there as it is in many other parts of the world. The captain of the women’s national team, Amy Lasu, who began playing in Kenya before returning to play in her home country, says: “It is challenging because for the longest time football has been considered a men’s sport. It was considered a taboo for girls to play.”

Her mother played basketball and her father football, and they would buy her shirts and boots and take her to academies, but for Maryln James, a grassroots player, the story is a little different.

“If you tell your parents that you are going to play football you get asked why you’re going to play with men,” she says. “I just had one person supporting me, my mother. When I started my father would beat me when I came back from training. But my mother said this was not only for men, she can play.”

Far from bowing to the pressures and expectations on girls, the federation is challenging them. “We want to show to the world that South Sudan is growing in women football, and we also want change the mindset of some people who still don’t believe that women can play football,” says Helen Terso Aninyesi, the project manager for Stars Unite and women’s development officer.

South Sudan’s national team, who played their first game last year.



South Sudan’s national team, who played their first game last year. Photograph: South Sudan FA

The plans are bold. The FA has committed to training more female coaches, administrators, referees and scouts; girls’ football will be promoted in schools; there will be community outreach programmes; it will launch a new national league with player licensing; and it promises increased participation for

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The frightening reality of women’s concussions

It’s a moment perhaps everyone who’s played rugby — or any contact sport — has experienced; your head hitting the turf, or accidental head-to-head contact. For some, the contact doesn’t cause any issues, maybe a bruise or a bit of short term pain. For me, it meant a concussion; throbbing headaches, nausea, ‘fogginess’, a struggle to concentrate and more. Just under three months after smacking the back of my head into the ground twice over six weeks playing rugby, I’m still struggling.

It’s been an eye-opening experience.

After 15 years of playing sport, including netball, cricket, touch football and rugby, it was during a sevens match that I stood flat footed in a tackle and was steam rolled by an opposition player, hitting my head on the turf and experiencing my first concussion.

Immediately I knew there was an issue. While there wasn’t a headache straight away, I’d hit my head so hard there was almost an audible thud as it struck the ground. Moments later when I dove over the line to score a try, I stood up and cried. There was no reason; I wasn’t in any pain and in fact I should have been celebrating as I’d no doubt sealed a win for my team. But as I walked off and over to my team bench I couldn’t help it with tears rolling down my face and gasping for breath as I practically sobbed. It was one of the first signs of my concussion. The symptom list would continue to grow as the day went on.

Within days of my head knock I visited my GP to be formally diagnosed and get instructions on how to properly recover. He also sent me to receive an MRI scan as a precaution. My MRI came back clear and the GP was hopeful that if I followed the return-to-play protocols properly, I’d be fine to play within weeks. I was stupid, impatient and didn’t properly follow instructions only thinking of getting back to the field as soon as possible.

Over the years, and as more information and the lasting effects of minor traumatic brain injuries [MTBI] or concussions has come to light, sporting bodies have endeavored to make sports safer for their athletes.

Rugby has introduced new tackling height rules and the ‘blue card’ system in which players showing immediate signs of concussion are sent from the field and are unable to return to play. Rugby league has done similar, lowering the tackle height and doing away with the shoulder charge, while AFL has cracked down on head-high bumps and sling-tackles which leave players powerless to stop a head knock.

While all these measures have seen a decrease in concussions, it’s certainly almost impossible to eradicate concussions from contact sport – especially in the women’s game.

According to studies in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, women are twice as likely as men, in like-for-like sports, to experience a concussion, symptoms are more severe for women and symptoms are likely

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Congress takes crucial step toward establishing Latino and women’s history museums

After years of commissions, reports and hearings, two proposed museums dedicated to American Latino and women’s history moved a step closer to reality Thursday, when a key Senate committee voted unanimously to approve them.

“This is a big day,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Rules Committee and a co-sponsor of the bills that authorize the Smithsonian Institution to create the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum. “These museums are critical to expanding our understanding of Latino and women’s history,” she said.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), whose advocacy for a Latino museum dates to 2003, when he was a House member, said the committee’s unanimous support of the previously passed House bill puts a Latino museum within reach.

“This is an extraordinary day in the long march toward the realization of the American Latino museum as part of our national fabric, as part of the long history of this country, a history that preceded this country,” Menendez said Thursday.

With dozens of bipartisan co-sponsors, the bills could be taken up soon by the full Senate. The House version of the bill establishing the women’s history museum was approved in February; the American Latino Museum Act was passed in July.

“I will be looking at every possible way to make that happen,” Menendez said.

[Buoyed by opening of African American Museum, backers try again for an America Latino museum]

The proposed museums would be the first new Smithsonians since the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016. Like that museum, the new museums would be financed with 50 percent federal funding and 50 percent private donations. The bills charge the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents with identifying the sites for the museums within two years.

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III offered his support for the museums.

“We are watching this important step in the process closely and will follow the guidance of Congress,” Bunch said in a statement Thursday that echoed his comments at the committee’s Nov. 17 hearing on the proposed museums. “Creating new museums is challenging, but, with appropriate funding, the Smithsonian has the skill and expertise to do it right. We can, and have, created museums that meet the needs of the nation and showcase the U.S. to the world.”

If approved, the legislation would allow the museums to collect artifacts related to their missions, create exhibitions and programs, including educational efforts, and collaborate with other Smithsonian facilities. Both bills also include language “ensuring diversity of political viewpoints.”

[Congressional panel calls for Smithsonian museum of women’s history]

Advocates have been pushing for an American Latino museum since 1994, when the Smithsonian released a report, “Willful Neglect,” outlining its failures to promote the history and culture of Hispanic Americans. The report, which called for a stand-alone museum, led to the creation of the Smithsonian Latino Center in 1997.



Carolyn Maloney looking at the camera: New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney has been advocating for a women’s history museum for years.


© Pool/Reuters
New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney has been advocating for a women’s history museum

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Latino, women’s history Smithsonian museums get Senate committee approval

Klobuchar predicted that she and her committee colleagues would remember the vote when the museums open.

“These museums are critical to expanding our understanding of Latino and women’s history,” she said.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), whose advocacy for a Latino museum dates to 2003, when he was a House member, said the committee’s unanimous support of the previously passed House bill puts a Latino museum within reach.

“This is an extraordinary day in the long march toward the realization of the American Latino museum as part of our national fabric, as part of the long history of this country, a history that preceded this country,” Menendez said Thursday.

“I will be looking at every possible way to make that happen,” Menendez said.

The proposed museums would be the first new Smithsonians since the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016. Like that museum, the new museums would be financed with 50 percent federal funding and 50 percent private donations. The bills charge the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents with identifying the sites for the museums within two years.

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III offered his support for the museums.

“We are watching this important step in the process closely and will follow the guidance of Congress,” Bunch said in a statement Thursday that echoed his comments at the committee’s Nov. 17 hearing on the proposed museums. “Creating new museums is challenging, but, with appropriate funding, the Smithsonian has the skill and expertise to do it right. We can, and have, created museums that meet the needs of the nation and showcase the U.S. to the world.”

If approved, the legislation would allow the museums to collect artifacts related to their missions, create exhibitions and programs, including educational efforts, and collaborate with other Smithsonian facilities. Both bills also include language “ensuring diversity of political viewpoints.”

Advocates have been pushing for an American Latino museum since 1994, when the Smithsonian released a report, “Willful Neglect,” outlining its failures to promote the history and culture of Hispanic Americans. The report, which called for a stand-alone museum, led to the creation of the Smithsonian Latino Center in 1997.

In 2003, Congress established a commission to study the creation of a museum, a step that launched the earlier African American and American Indian museums. Legislators have introduced bills establishing a Latino museum in every Congress since 2011. Thursday’s vote was the first major Senate action in a decade.

“These two museums would provide a place where visitors can see, learn and gain a greater appreciation for the role that women and Latinos have played in shaping the nation we are today,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the committee chairman, said before the vote.

In 2014, Congress created a bipartisan commission to study a women’s history museum. That panel released a report in 2016, prompting Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) to introduce her first bill based on the commission’s findings.

Maloney said she is optimistic that the Senate will finish the job.

“I

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Women’s cricket: ECB announces 41 full-time domestic contracts

Alex Hartley
Spinner Alex Hartley, a World Cup winner in 2017, was one of the 25 players awarded a regional retainer contract in June

Sixteen female cricketers have been awarded full-time domestic contracts with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), taking the total to 41.

Each of the eight teams in the regional set-up now has five full-time players, with Western Storm funding a sixth.

All-rounder Jenny Gunn, who retired from England international duty in 2019, is among the players to earn one.

“This is the most significant step forward for the women’s game in recent years,” said the ECB’s Clare Connor.

The ECB awarded 25 regional retainer contracts in June, with plans to announce 40 domestic deals delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The full-time contracts are in addition to the 17 centrally contracted England players, such as Heather Knight and Natalie Sciver.

Spinner Alex Hartley, who won the 2017 World Cup alongside Gunn but lost her central contract last year, was already on a regional retainer alongside the likes of Sophia Dunkley, Tash Farrant and Bryony Smith who have played for England.

Connor, ECB director of women’s cricket, added: “In terms of the health of women’s cricket in England and Wales, we cannot overestimate the importance of these 41 players having the opportunity to train and work on their skills full-time, with access to high quality coaching and facilities across the eight regions.

“Today’s news is not only wonderful for the players themselves, it represents a step change for our whole domestic game and for young girls who will now be able to see more opportunity and aspiration in front of them.”

The players will compete in The Women’s Hundred competition, which has been postponed until 2021.

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Mississippi State women’s basketball game at Southern Miss canceled

Mississippi State’s women’s basketball schedule has encountered another change. 

MSU’s game against Southern Miss – originally scheduled to be played in Hattiesburg on December 12 – had been cancelled. Southern Miss announced Monday that its program has suspended all team activities until December 12 due to COVID-19 protocols.

It’s already not the first time the Bulldogs have had to adjust this season. Mississippi State was supposed to open up its 2020-21 campaign this past Saturday at the Women’s Hall of Fame Challenge in Connecticut. However that event was cancelled due to COVID-19-related issues, costing the Bulldogs a chance to play a couple of games. Instead, MSU scheduled a sudden game against Jackson State for this past Sunday. The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers 88-58 in MSU’s first game under the direction of new head coach Nikki McCray-Penson.

Mississippi State’s season is set to continue with a pair of games this week. The Bulldogs host New Orleans on Wednesday at 7 p.m. central. They’ll then face South Florida on the road at 6 p.m. central Saturday.

With the cancellation of the Southern Miss game, MSU now doesn’t have a game scheduled between the South Florida contest and a December 14 home game versus Troy. It’s currently unknown if the Bulldogs might look to schedule another game now that the instate battle against the Golden Eagles is off.

To follow along on Cowbell Corner and comment on articles and participate in the community, simply sign up, get a username and chime in with your thoughts and questions. Also, be sure to follow Cowbell Corner on Twitter (@SIBulldogs) by clicking here, and like it on Facebook by clicking here. Thank you for coming to Cowbell Corner for coverage of Mississippi State sports.

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Bay Path University’s next Women’s Leadership Conference will take place in person in 2022

SPRINGFIELD — Bay Path University’s annual Women’s Leadership Conference has garnered a reputation as the premier event of the spring at the MassMutual Center, with big-name guest speakers like actress Rita Moreno and journalist Barbara Walters and plenty of opportunities for women to network.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the university canceled the conference, which was set to feature entertainment and beauty icon Tyra Banks.

Initially Bay Path planned for a virtual conference in 2021. But on Wednesday the school announced it will instead hold out for an in-person conference in 2022.

“We looked at possible virtual platforms to hold the conference, but we felt that, given the energy that is felt in the room on that day and the networking that happens, that it was just not going to be a comparable experience,” said Caron Hobin, vice president of strategic alliances, who has produced the conference since its inception 24 years ago.

Hobin said planners were also realistic about the amount of screen time people are enduring for work and social gatherings since the pandemic began.

“We realize, from our own experiences attending Zoom meetings and digital forums, that screen fatigue is real,” she said. “In order to truly create a day that would meet the high standards that we — and our attendees — have come to expect, we feel that waiting it out to create a great in-person experience is the right way to go.”

Bay Path University President Sandra J. Doran said the school was excited about the possibility offering a virtual conference, but feedback from the community made it clear that was not the best option.

“Knowing how important this was to our community we did some small focus groups with supporters, with sponsors, with attendees to tell us why the conference is important to them and whether they thought we could satisfy that purpose if we held it virtually,” she said. “Universally people came back and said no. The value of this conference is the relationships we build, the conversations we have around our table, and that’s something we cannot provide virtually.”

Doran said the opportunity to network, connect, learn and grow happened in an organic way when people came together in one space. The annual conference brings more than 2,000 attendees to downtown Springfield for a day of speakers and workshop sessions devoted to professional development and personal goals.

Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the annual event is a boost for small business owners who sell their goods during the conference, as well as for the local economy as a whole.

“That event comes in at $200,000 in terms of impact because it is mostly a local draw, and it’s a one-day event, but you do get people who will stay in the downtown area and grab dinner after the conference,” she said.

Wydra said the value of the conference is in the exposure it provides for the MassMutual Center and downtown.

“They

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Two-child benefit cap influencing women’s decisions on abortion, says BPAS

The controversial “two-child limit” restricting the amount that larger families can receive in social security benefits was a key factor in many women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancy during the pandemic, according to a leading abortion charity.



a woman walking down a street: Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


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Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said over half of the women it surveyed who had an abortion during the pandemic, and who were aware of the two-child limit and likely to be affected by it, said the policy was “important in their decision-making around whether or not to continue the pregnancy.”

Some women told BPAS that the combination of economic and job insecurity triggered by pandemic and the two-child limit effectively removed their choice over the pregnancy, persuading them to end a pregnancy they would in a less fraught financial situation have wanted to keep.

“The two-child cap forces people into a corner of knowing they can’t provide versus abortion,” one mother said. “Although I understand it is not the government’s responsibility to be financially responsible for parents having children, I also felt that thanks to this rule I was forced to make this decision.”

Another mother told BPAS: “If there was no two-child limit, I would have kept the baby, but I couldn’t afford to feed and clothe it … I’ve really struggled to come to terms with my decision.”

The limit, which was introduced as way of cutting £1bn a year from the welfare bill, bars parents from claiming the child element in tax credits or universal credit for third or subsequent children born after 6 April 2017. The loss of benefits is worth £2,900 per child per year.

BPAS said even prior to the pandemic there was evidence that the two-child policy was affecting pregnancy rates. There had been a disproportionately large increase in abortions by mothers with two or more existing children between 2016 and 2019 – 16.4%, compared with 10.3% and 7% respectively for women with no or one child.

According to official statistics, 243,000 families had been affected by the two-child limit in the three years to April 2020. Some 900 women over the period were allowed official exemption from the cap after being forced to formally disclose that their child was conceived as a result of rape.

BPAS called for the two-child limit to be scrapped. “If the government does not want to see more women feeling forced into a corner between financial hardship or ending an otherwise wanted pregnancy, they must revoke the two-child limit as a matter of urgency,” said Katherine O’Brien, BPAS associate director of campaigns.

“The two-child limit is a cruel and unnecessary policy which expects families to make impossible choices. The limit now affects over 1 million children and is rapidly driving up child poverty. In the midst of a pandemic and jobs crisis, it is particularly callous to continue to pursue this punitive policy,” said Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow social security secretary.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We know this is

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Texans fired up for first U.S. Women’s Open in Lone Star State in nearly 30 years

Angela Stanford’s first experience at a U.S. Women’s Open came in 1991, when Meg Mallon won at Colonial Country Club not far from Stanford’s Fort Worth home. Seventh-grade Stanford bought a visor that week at Colonial and, years later, when she was competing alongside Mallon as a rookie on the LPGA, asked the World Golf Hall of Famer to sign it. It remains one of her prized pieces of sports memorabilia.



a man and a woman wearing a hat


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“I just never dreamed that I’d get to play one in Texas,” said a giddy and grateful 43-year-old Stanford.

The 75th U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club, which gets underway Dec. 10, marks only the second time the championship will be held in the Lone Star State. It’s a startling stat given how many of LPGA legends have hailed from Texas, including Babe Zaharias, Kathy Whitworth, Betsy Rawls, Marilynn Smith, Judy Rankin, Sandra Palmer and Carol Mann. Stanford got teary-eyed just thinking about the opportunity on the 4 ½-hour drive down to media day last month.

“I know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” she said. “I can’t even put it into words.”



Karin Sjödin holding a pot


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Meg Mallon holds the U.S. Women’s Open trophy at the 1991 U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Colonial CC in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 14, 1991. (USGA)

There are seven Texans in the 156-player field, including three major winners and two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman. Brittany Lang is the only Texan competing who has won a U.S. Women’s Open.

Champions owner Jack Burke Jr., the oldest living Masters champion, still shows up to work every day at age 97. (He’ll turn 98 on Jan. 29.) The club’s rich history of tournaments includes the 1969 U.S. Open, 1967 Ryder Cup (captained by Ben Hogan), five PGA Tour Championships (won by the likes of Tiger Woods and David Duval) and the Houston Champions International (now the Vivant Houston Open), won by Arnold Palmer, Roberto De Vicenzo and Hubert Green.

No club in Texas has hosted more USGA championships than Champions.

Stacy Lewis grew up down the road in The Woodlands, Texas, and actually joined Champions when she and husband Gerrod Chadwell first moved to Houston.

“If you want to play with the best players,” she said, “that’s where you go.”

The couple now live at Golf Club of Houston, where Chadwell’s University of Houston team practices. Lewis, however, was recently extended a membership to Burkes’ historic club in the run-up to the Women’s Open.

“I’ve actually played Jackrabbit more than I’ve played Cypress,” said the former No. 1, referring to the second course that will be utilized championship week due to limited daylight.

While the Cypress course is open with massive greens, Jackrabbit presents a tighter test with a number of doglegs and smaller green complexes. A player could hit 16 or 17 greens on Cypress, Lewis said, and still shoot over par.

Given that the PGA’s Tour’s Houston Open welcomed fans in November, Lewis held out hope

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L&C holiday decor goes up thanks to Godfrey Women’s Club

GODFREY — Lewis and Clark Community College staff this week decorated the Harriet Newell Haskell Memorial Entrance and campus wall along Godfrey Road with evergreen garlands, bows and special lighting, thanks to the generosity of the Godfrey Women’s Club.

The L&C Horticulture staff led the decorating effort. The decorations were funded by a donation from the Godfrey Women’s Club.

“For decades the Godfrey Women’s Club, whose president is Kathy Steinmann, has brought the spirit of the season alive through holiday decorations on L&C’s campus,” said Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation Director of Development Debby Edelman, who helps plan the project with the club. “At the heart of the club’s mission is beautification, and they achieve that in spades through the pine roping on the campus wall. It’s an honor to be part of this meaningful gift to the community.”

The 50-plus member Women’s Club also maintains an L&C scholarship fund. The group raises money throughout the year with various campaigns, including the popular Christmas Carousel arts and crafts fair. That event was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about the Godfrey Women’s Club, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Godfrey-Womens-Club-101730551293734.


The college and foundation also celebrated Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1, kicking off a fundraising campaign to start the holiday season. To learn more about the L&C Foundation, or to give a gift in support of the college, visit www.lc.edu/foundation.

# # #

Caption: L&C Gardener/Landscaper Katie Piper and L&C Horticulture Manager Ethan Braasch (background) hang evergreen holiday décor along the campus wall on Godfrey Road, Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Godfrey Women’s Club donated money to purchase the decorations. The display provides a warming scene to those passing by. Photo by Nathan Woodside, L&C Media Services

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