We sit down with the tough cookies of Egypt's first all-female American football team and delve into their world as they open up about their love for the game, female empowerment, and all-around badassery in the face of gender roles.
If you passed Lora Mosley, Reeham Oussama Abu Senna, Sarah Sharabassy, Nadine Baheer, or Hadeer Ayman Nassar in the street, you’d probably mistake them for ordinary people; they’ll strike you as typical Egyptian women: composed, neat, and feminine. They’re all these things and more, the only difference is that after they clock out of their 9-to-5 jobs and take off their pantsuits, they become their own heroes and each other’s champions.
A year ago, fate – for lack of a more dramatic word – brought them together to go down in history as members of Egypt’s first ever women’s American flag football team in Egypt.
The Pink Warriors are women from all walks of life and all backgrounds; some are in their prime, some have already peaked. Their differences are rendered moot, however, once they step onto the field with the sole purpose of landing that leather ball into their opposing team’s end zone.
A self-proclaimed feminist, Calosha Boalia – an entrepreneur, a fitness trainer, an American football player, and the co-founder and offensive coach of the Pink Warriors – envisioned a bigger role for Egyptian women in the game than filling up stadiums and cheering their ‘guy friends’. “We [Egypt’s national American football team] were playing against Morocco, and I noticed that 70 percent of the audience was girls,” he recounts. “I figured most of them had come to cheer the team but didn’t quite understand the game. It was then that I had the idea; I thought, why not include women and spread the game further? And women, as a community, are better at making things grow.”
Pink Warriors Founder and Offensive Coach Calosha Boalia
A year later, Boalia willed Egypt’s first women’s American flag football team into being. “We wanted to keep girls away from violence at first, so we eliminated the tackling part, and we started with flag football, which is standard when it comes to boys as well,” he explains.
However, surprisingly, American football was first introduced in Egypt in 2006 and has since grown exponentially, with 10 teams already established and another seven in the making. Boalia has been one of the pioneering figures during the game’s brief presence in Egypt so far, which is incredible, considering that it almost never happened. “I used to be an accountant, but I shifted into sports four years in,” he states. “Then I became a fitness trainer and I played American football with a team called Cairo Sharks; I loved the game so much and I wanted to contribute to its growth in Egypt.”
A teacher, wife, and mother of three, 33-year-old Lora Mosley didn’t think twice before joining the Pink Warriors despite having a full plate. Every evening, on her way to practice, she sheds the burdens of adulthood and replaces them with childlike vigour. “I try to manage it, I have [the children] do their homework, get everything done; they go to their practice, I go to mine,” she jokes.
Regardless of how busy their lives may be, the glue that holds The Pink Warriors together is more than just each individual’s ability to manage their time, but rather their eagerness to be there for each other. “I feel so much more complete now that I have something consistent in my life – this loyalty to my team; they have become more like family. If I miss practice one day, I feel as though I failed them,” 26-year-old Pink Warriors wide receiver Hadeer Ayman Nassar says. “In my position, I love that I have a goal – I have a touchdown that I need to get to, no matter who’s standing in my way. I am so happy to have that sense of challenge, but most importantly, having my teammates all trying to protect and help me reach that. It makes me want to improve myself for them.”
They carry this rhythm to the field with them, where the dynamic of their sisterly love flows throughout the game. “What I love about the game is that it’s all about teamwork; everyone counts, everyone has their own role, no matter you’re weight, height, age or body type – everyone has their own place,” 21-year-old Sarah Sharabassy enthuses.
Theirs is like the sacred bond among seafarers – there’s a human chain reaction between them that ends up binding them together. “When I became a quarterback I felt more responsibility because you have to lead the whole offensive team,” 24-year-old Reeham Oussama Abu Senna recalls. “But, it’s also teamwork, so each one has to fill their position, and eventually we all complement each other.”
A career in sports is usually synonymous to million-dollar contracts, super model wives, and endorsement deals, but at the heart of every game is a desire to reach the edge of what the human body can endure and what the mind can withstand, then push a little further. That’s why every 90s kid owns a pair of Air Jordans; because children have the amazing insight to understand that an honest day’s work is one spent toiling away at something you love doing, whatever it may be, and the extraordinary instinct to recognise it in others.
The Pink Warriors have yet to hit the million-dollar mark; their only incentive is the pure and unadulterated love of the game and their reward is the knowledge that they had it in them to play and that they didn’t sit on the sidelines, like benchwarmers in their own lives. Such was the lesson football taught 18-year-old Nadine Baheer. She joined the team as a shy little girl, now she is a lady boss. “What I love about the game is that it taught me that if I want something I can make it happen, especially in the position I play – cornerback. If I don’t want someone to pass, they won’t pass. It taught me to assert myself,” she says, before adding with aplomb: “The offense always knows where they’re going – which direction they’re running in – but a defense doesn’t have that luxury, you have to be able to read the person and anticipate their moves. My body is always on the move and my mind is always on.”
Pink Warriors Cornerback Nadine Baheer
With four other all-female American football teams sprouting around Egypt – all of which were formed shortly after The Pink Warriors – 22-year-old assistant coach and one of the founders of the Pink Warriors, Heidi Reda Ahmed, can think of no reason why women can’t dominate the game in a patriarchal society. “At first I thought it’d be difficult to get girls to join, but since our first tryouts in October 2015, a lot of women have joined and interest in the game has grown within their communities. After the first match we played against She Wolves [another all-female American football team], we had even more people joining the team, so it’s becoming more popular. I’d definitely say it’s booming.”
Boalia set out to build a team and ended up with a family and a legacy that will outlast him, setting a precedent for an entire demographic to claim a share in an ever-growing nascent sport that may very well become Egypt’s soccer one day. Not quite the crack in the glass ceiling, but our little girls no longer have to grow up thinking American football is a jeu de gamins, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Shoot by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions
Cinematography by: Abanoub Ramsis and Mohamed Atef
Photography by: Karim El Sabaa