Social change through ‘Zanzibar Soccer Dreams’ (2016)

Zanzibar Soccer Dreams (2016)

Watching Zanzibar Soccer Dreams via the virtual 2020 Women Sports Film Festival, I suffered a little deja-vu, wondering if I had already seen this film. It turns out that this documentary, by two professors in the UK, came out only a year after New Generation Queens: A Zanzibar Soccer Story was released by a couple of young American women. I saw both films through the WSFF.

You can read my review of the earlier film, where I also included information about Zanzibar, the large island off the Eastern coast of Africa that is part of the country of Tanzania. After watching over 300 soccer movies, I don’t feel bad about a little confusion on my part.

Background

Zanzibar Soccer Dreams, also known as ndoto ya mpira wa miguu in Swahili, is actually a followup to a 2007 short film done by the investigators Florence Ayisi and Catalin Brylla. In the current film, the two co-Directors credit their short Zanzibar Soccer Queens with elevating the status of women football players in predominantly Muslim Zanzibar. In the intervening years, football was allowed to be taught to girls in public schools.

Activist Nassra J. Mohammed features prominently. Originally a competitive badminton player, she got a chance to play football in 1988. She went on to form soccer team Women Fighters FC and a league for them to play in, to assist coaching the Tanzanian Womens National Team (the Twiga Stars), and then to incorporate soccer in girls education. I could not confirm that Nassra (also sometimes spelled Nasra) was ever head coach of the Twiga Stars, as some articles have stated. (The TFF Tanzania Football Federation website is a bit out of whack, but apparently they have an opening for a new CEO.)

Through Nassra’s involvement, the film largely covers Women Fighters’ invitation to play in Germany (which elevated the womens’ status), the spread of girls football through education, overcoming (or not) opposition by Muslim men and parents, and insights into why Muslim girls and women play the game despite poor fields, burkas, and bare feet. It is interesting that they see football as an opportunity for government jobs, much as Nassra has achieved.

In conclusion

All of the soccer is recreational and what you would expect when females are learning a sport that has been forbidden to them. It gives us a perspective of social change seemingly brought on by one woman’s efforts and the documentary short that publicized her work. However, I found the documentary very slow and maybe a little self-serving. Even though it is only an hour long, I kept glancing at the clock.

If you only watch one film about womens football in Zanzibar, I would stick with New Generation Queens. However, my opinion may change as I now have 2 other films to watch: the 2007 short and the 2010 documentary Twiga Stars- Tanzania’s Soccer Sisters.

5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5

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