Tue, 02 Mar 2021

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HASAKAH, Syria, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Smiling while chatting with her friends on their way to the football playground in Syria's northwestern province of Hasakah, Feryal Ahmad is happy to become a football player, a childhood dream and a sport that helped her overcome challenging times in life.

The 18-year-old girl makes sure she attends all the training with her teammates, where they jump, kick, and pass balls to one another so energetically. Sometimes she barks her shin during the training, but that doesn't bother her at all as she gets up again and continues to run after the ball.

Her story with football, a game that is commonly perceived to be for men in Syria, goes way back to her childhood.

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When she was a little girl, Ahmad had no female friends of her age. All she had around were her male siblings and cousins. To have fun, she started playing football with them before this fun game has turned into a hobby of hers later.

Her dream of becoming a football player had just begun to take shape in her imagination when a war engulfed her area and was quick to deprive her of that dream, though temporarily.

Ahmad endured a fair share of fear when she had to flee her home in the Ayn al-Arab city, also known as Kobane, in northern Syria along with her family following the arrival of the Islamic State (IS) in their area. Daesh, the locally known name of the IS, was a bogeyman for children of her age.

"Suddenly we heard that Daesh had reached the city and was advancing rapidly, so we got scared and feared that they would hurt the women. We fled to Turkey, where we felt homesick and instability," she told Xinhua.

The girl further voiced the fears they have had that they might never return home.

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She said she didn't play football in Turkey when they first arrived but later she learned that there was a playground for football and she went with her brothers to play and release their stress.

She was only 15 when fleeing to Turkey where she and her family stayed for two years before IS was defeated in Ayn al-Arab and retreated. She said when they returned, they found everything damaged. Even when she returned to school, the situation wasn't allowing for playing football.

"Later, I started playing football at the school with my female friends, whom I encouraged to play because football is not only a game for boys; girls can also play. We continued to play and became part of the first female football team in (Ayn al-Arab) Kobane," she said.

For Ahmad and her friends, football was an outlet for their fears and stress due to the tough circumstances they had to endure at such an early age. She told Xinhua that playing football helps her release all the negativity she feels.

"When I am in a bad mood or when anything annoys me, I play football, which makes me forget about the things that bother me such as the situation of the city," she said.

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Her coach, Dalil Ghaffar, told Xinhua that he picked Ahmad to play in a female team he was forming as he had seen a promising talent in her.

The young man said forming teams for teenagers in troubled areas helped the young generation overcome a lot of the stress they had gone through in their childhood as now they travel to other provinces and compete with other female football teams.

"When we came up with the idea of forming a female football team, the situation was difficult for everyone in the city. Thankfully, we were able to succeed and push these girls away from the negative atmosphere because these girls are still young and deserve a happy and normal life," he said.

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