Sunday, June 25, 2017

TRAVEL : Joyful time as women footballers climb Mount Kilimanjaro

As climbers trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, they get

As climbers trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, they get an opportunity to view the beautiful savanna below it. PHOTO | ELISHA MAYALLAH 

By Elisha Mayallah

From Arusha in a small group, we recently travelled towards Moshi and within the boundaries of Boma, a popular town along the highway, we branched over to take the road up to Lemosho.

Travellers driving through the rural countryside in the north of Tanzania get a glimpse of natural landscapes and extraordinary beauties.

It was an incredible experience to be on the road for a couple of hours and to see the amazing mountainous countryside from the lowland.

It was my first time to drive along this part of the country. Community farming stretched far in the horizon came into repeated viewing as we drove away.

Our first sighting close to the foot of the mountain was a tropical savannah surrounded by forests. We arrived at Lemosho mid-morning.

We were here to witness a group of brave women footballers who had flown in from different parts of the world to realize their lifetime dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

And as we stepped off the car we were welcomed by a surprise appearance of a large crowd of porters. Porters are the unsung heroes of the mountain and carry between 15 and 25 kgs of equipment up the mountain.

Their duties include carrying all climbers stuff such as tents, food, extra clothing, cooking equipment, dining tents, and chairs, among many others.

Most of them climb the mountain twice of thrice each month during the high season. They only return home for a couple of days before they embark on the next expedition.

They are truly the toughest, strongest and most resilient men, without them, no one would make it to the summit.

Lemosho through the Londorossi gate is one of the six routes used by mountain climbers to scale up Mount Kilimanjaro, 5895m. It is one of the longest routes. Climbers take between nine and ten days to and from the summit of Kilimanjaro.

The main reason is to help climbers to acclamatize well in that time. Mountain sickness is something that most climbers want to avoid at all costs, and by acclimatizing properly, the climber runs less risk of getting ill.

After a while, the women footballers who had embarked in scaling Mount Kilimanjaro arrived to clear their papers and meet up with their guides and porters,

The 60 women footballers, according to Geofrey Tengeneza from the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) were using guiding services from Nature Discovery and Kilimanjaro Outfitters.

Through the organization Equal Playing Field and various funding partners, the women have been raising money for the mission in which it has players, FIFA referees, coaches, a medical team and support crew including a TV crew from the media.

The women, after reaching the summit are set to play a 90-minute football on a volcanic ash pitch at an altitude not attempted before. The Crater, 5731m will host the first of its kind an 11-a-side match. And it all depends on the weather.

Msafiri Muna one of the guides to lead the footballers and the whole group is a composition of 360 porters and six guides. Muna said he had scaled Mount Kilimanjaro more than 200 times and was happy to be part of the guide

The footballers, representing 20 nationalities, include retired US international Lori Lindsey, of the former England midfielderRachel Unit, ex-Germany international Petra Landers and former Mexico captain, Monica Gonzalez.

Other footballers are from Netherlands, Germany, France, Canada, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

Ranging in ages, from 18 to 66 years old, the players’ aims is to raise awareness of the issues women and girls face when playing sport.

Equal Playing Field had said it wanted to “challenge the social norms for girls and women in sport” and acknowledge “the systematic, structured inequality that girls and women face in most aspects of their lives.”

Rajiv Radha, a Tanzanian player now based in Dubai, said: “We want to inspire other women and girls to keep challenging the inequalities in sport.

“Sport brings friendships and community, commitment and leadership, and strength and health. No girl should miss out on those benefits because of her gender.”

After descending, the group will hold a series of football training clinics in Arusha before their departure.

Email: elisha.mayallah@gmail.com

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