Sunday, September 13, 2009
MANY OF Jamaica's female footballers can empathise with the South African, Caster Semenya, as they have faced similar questions about whether they are male or female.
But for most of these female footballers, the questions come because of choices they make.
"Many dress like men. They walk with a sort of male swagger, while their language could make male sailors blush," a football referee told The Sunday Gleaner.
"There have been matches where I see the girls and I have been tempted to ask for gender tests," the referee added.
Jean Nelson, one of the managers of the female football teams with the Jamaica Football Federation, has a long history with the sport in Jamaica.
She managed the first Jamaican female team, which played an international game in the 1991 CONCACAF tournament, held in Haiti.
When The Sunday Gleaner asked Nelson if she had ever heard comments about the female footballers looking like men, she said she had.
"It is how they dress and carry on. Off the field, it should be a different thing," Nelson said.
shorts halfway down
Then there was an instance, not quite off the field but still not quite on it, that reinforced the issue of dress and how a standard needs to be enforced.
"I was at a game in Mandeville. A girl was warming up, with her shorts halfway down," Nelson said.
Still, it could be a case that too much femininity in a player could be a disadvantage in football, as Nelson said she had seen players "look that way and other girls try to cow them".
Pointing to former world female footballer of the year, Mia Hamm of the United States, Nelson said she had no doubt that a woman can play what is considered a man's sport at the highest level and remain overtly feminine.
Women's football has come a long way in Jamaica from when the Jamaica Women's Football Association was formed in 1990, with Nelson heading that organisation.
Accessing sponsorship was difficult and "women playing football was seen as a big joke". For the 1991 CONCACAF tournament, they did fund-raising themselves, with Portia Simpson Miller integral in funding the airfare.
After starting out with six teams in the initial year, two dropping out to leave only four, last year, there were two female football leagues, a premier and an 'A' league. This year, there is a premier league and a knockout competition involving 12 teams, with KSAFA having a five-a-side competition as well.
coaches speak harshly
Nelson has heard players complain about how the coaches, all male, speak harshly to them and says, "A whole paradigm shift has to take place."
She says nearly all the players come from the inner city and "there is this aggressiveness in the society and the inner city".
"At the inner-city level, there is so much anger, and I am seeing that many of these girls are playing it out," Nelson said. "It is not just the female footballers, but across the society."
Charlene Bryanknows just what impression a female footballer's masculine appearance can make. Her niece, who lives in the United States, plays football and "out here, she would have a harder time. There, she fits right in. Here, she would be stereotyped as butch and maybe gay".
However, even in the US, she has had to deal with repercussions from her mannerisms and appearance.
One of her male classmates is going through a sterilisation process on his way to becoming a woman. Her niece was asked to share a room with him on a school trip. "Her mother said no," Bryan said.
Name changed on request.
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Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist
c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation
e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports
f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)
g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible
h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions
j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it