December 2013 in Washington, D.C. and Cary, North Carolina
Iraq Soccer Sports Visitors Program
The Iraq soccer delegation consisted of 11 female athletes and 3 female coaches. The program began in Washington, DC and finished in Cary, North Carolina. Three regions were represented: Kurkuk, Erbil, and Baghdad.
The participants attended an orientation, monument tour, and played disability sports at Emery Recreation Center while in Washington, DC. In North Carolina they were able to attend the NCAA Women’s Soccer Semi-Final and Championship Games, attend soccer clinics, do a community service project, participate in curriculum sessions, shop, and do several cultural activities. Tracy Noonan, Cindy Cone, and Laura Kerrigan hosted the soccer clinics. Two of the clinics involved American high school students. The community service project consisted of the girls cleaning up a soccer complex and helping organize t-shirts and donations. After the curriculum, the participants presented their action plans to go back to their communities and raise awareness about women and sport. They divided up by region and will have the support of each other after returning home.
For 12 days in December 2013, women and girls from three different regions in Iraq, speaking different languages, came together in Washington, D.C. and Cary, NC through sport. They embarked on a journey where they would learn how to use soccer as a way to challenge cultural traditions that may limit women who choose to pursue their dreams.
The delegation visited monuments in Washington, D.C. that mark some of America’s greatest successes as a country. They also visited the Emory Rec Center where they learned how sport can be played without limits (link “without limits” to the ECA site: http://eca.state.gov/lives-without-limits) and had the opportunity to play wheelchair tennis. The delegation then traveled to Cary, NC where they developed their soccer skills and played with American soccer players at clinics run by former U.S. National players Laura Kerrigan, Cindy Cone and Tracy Noonan. They also had the chance to experience the NCAA Women’s College Cup where they cheered on the teams in an atmosphere they had never experienced before this exchange.
This cultural exchange used sport as a way to start the ripple of change for women and girls in Iraq. Kaser, a soccer coach from Kirkuk, believes that sport can help empower women. She described the potential ripple effect by saying, “If we can develop the next generation of leaders in their communities, we can definitely make progress and advance our society.” We look forward to seeing the change that these empowered women and girls make in their communities.