The 'hooligans' of yesterday have become the ambassadors of today as Zanibar's first female footballers usher in a cultural shift
Ann Odong

28 May 2016 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 28 May 2016 - 9:00 AM

They say that every hero was once a rebel and that is proving to be the case for the first female footballers in Zanzibar.  

Once labelled "hooligans", the players who were featured in University of South Wales professor Florence Ayisi's 2007 documentary "Zanzibar Soccer Queens" are now being viewed as heros of women's football.

The documentary told the story of Women Fighters FC - Zanibar's first on the country’s first female football team.

So profound was its effect that years later the government has altered its official policy to encourage sport for schoolgirls.

Close to a decade after it first aired, Professor Ayisi has produced a follow up documentary "Zanzibar Soccer Dreams", with the film premiering recently at Canada's Sports Film Festival in Toronto. 

“This new film shows changes in both the individuals featured and the society they live in as women’s soccer moved from the streets to the playing fields of government schools where young Muslim girls can now equally participate in soccer as part of sports education," said Professor Ayisi.

“The schoolgirls cherish this right to play the game despite continued challenges and limited resources.”

The first documentary's influence is felt in the follow up with Coach Nassra Juma and several players speaking about the changes in societal norms.   

“Before when we told our parents that we go for training they wouldn’t permit it," said one player. "Your brother would follow you to the pitch and beat you with a stick if he saw you there wearing shorts or wearing a jersey.

“He would say that this game is for hooligans, girls do not play it, they are supposed to stay at home. But when they came to see that film being shown everywhere our brothers now remind us ‘Go for training, go on for training’.”

“Now when a woman plays football her parents are happy. They want girls to play football. We have come far and we are now moving on to another era.”

For Professor Ayisi the continued impact of the first documentary is pleasing for the barriers it has broken down and the opportunities it has opened up for girls.

“Islam, soccer, and womanhood now seem to converge and coexist in harmony as women experience a significant transformation of their identities – from being ‘hooligans’ and ‘street kids’ to being regarded as cultural ambassadors.”