Meet the Match
Ugandan Soccer Legend Inspires Girls
Majidah Nantanda was raised in a family of all boys, she had four brothers total, two older and two younger. As a child, Majidah grew up believing she too was a boy, with all the same rights and privileges. She played outside with her brothers, competing against the other neighborhood boys in friendly soccer matches. She was quite good and her brothers were happy to have her on their team. In fact, they would even help Majidah do her chores so they could all play together.
As Majidah grew older, she began to recognize the differences in cultural expectations for girls and boys. As a young female, Majidah could not play soccer in school since it was not offered or allowed for females. Unlike her brothers, Majidah had chores to complete before she could go outside, which included cooking and cleaning for the family.
As the only girl on the pitch, Majidah was often ridiculed for pushing the cultural boundaries. Adults in the neighborhood would scorn her mother for allowing her to play such a masculine sport. People would say, “It’s not appropriate for a girl to play football. Girls should be in the kitchen cooking or doing some washing. Girls playing football is not natural.”
Despite the setbacks, Majidah persisted and became the best soccer player in the neighborhood and the only female. Because of her talent, other girls in the neighborhood would come to watch. “I was the best one on the field. Boys wanted me on their team. And I would say, ‘If you want me on your team, you have to let two or three other girls play as well.’ That’s how I got other girls involved in football.”
At 16, Majidah tried out for the national women’s soccer team. “My brother came home one day and told me there was a national football team for women! Imagine my surprise! There were other girls and women in Uganda playing football! My brother was so happy for me. ‘Majidah, you can do it!’ he said. He believed in me so much. He drove me to the tryouts. And at 16, I made the team. I trained for three years with the national team and in 1999, I played my first international game.” From that point on, Majidah never looked back.
Currently, Majidah serves as the head coach for the Ugandan Women’s National Soccer Team. Through this experience, she wants to improve her sport management skills, including public relations, grant-writing, sponsorship, and community partnerships. She also wants to develop a “Train the Trainer” program so that other women in Uganda can teach soccer to girls throughout the country. We believe Alicia and her team at the USOC are a great fit for Majidah. As the Director of Training Sites and Community Partnerships, Alicia can mentor Majidah in community collaboration and resource acquisition. In addition, Alicia’s hands-on approach to mentoring will also serve as a great model of professional development that Majidah can replicate as she creates her own mentoring and training programs.Read the Blog Article