SIGNS – Learning how to communicate in football visually or verbally

For many women playing football is more than just a sport. Playing football means to claim spaces in society that are usually reserved for men. Oftentimes, to stand up for the “right to play football” goes hand in hand with the commitment to women’s rights, equality and against discrimination. In order to strengthen this commitment, during the DISCOVER FOOTBALL Festival in 2015 we have organized a manifold workshop program. Empowerment of women is not just the central subject of these workshops but also their realization guideline: By the great majority the workshops are constituted as “women-only-spaces”. This gives the players the opportunity to get to know each other and to exchange their experiences with other players as well as with Berlinbased initiatives.

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It is often said that a football team should consist of 11 friends. But in the last few years we’ve realized that more than just players are involved in every aspect of the game. Next to the coaches and administrators it is also the female referees who above all play an important role for the visibility and participation of women in football. We learned that the top men’s league in Rwanda is refereed by women, and  that Bibiana Steinhaus made headlines in newspapers as the first female referee in the top men’s German football league. While there are women-only football teams, the idea of places for women in referee training courses is still a dream. This year our games will be refereed by three female referees from Bangladesh, Georgia, and Niger.

Like the teams, the coaches also worked together in new constellations in order to gain and share football experiences and put these to the test. The mixing of players and coaches offers all participants a change from their usual training routine, which will spark new energies and movements. In pairs of two, our almost twenty coaches will face the challenge to guide multilingual teams in a way so that they will be able to cross linguistic and cultural barriers – on and off the pitch. The programme allows the coaches to exchange training methods and experiences, to discuss worries and challenges, and to share moments of success.

We invited Natascha Laier  to our coach-the-coach workshop. It was all about how to communicate with sign. Natascha deaf herself presented and demonstrated ways on how this works best. Our coaches really have been impressed by her power and energy and gained insights and first hand experiences of an importnat topic while working with international teams.

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Our coaches experienced difficulties with communication as well during the first exercise with their new mixed teams. Language barriers and first fears of contact were visible. In the beginning of the coach workshop that was addressed by each coach in particular. At the end of the day coaches have been able to apply their gained knowledge during the next exercise with their teams. First success were achieved.

While our coaches practised how to communicated visually some of our players attened a workshop with Rainer Delgado, blind and visually impaired.

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He organized a training session for us and explained to us how they organize games and what to pay attention to. Our players experienced how difficult it is to play football not seeing anything. And it even was more difficult to trust voices of their teammates again in order to be able to play.

At the end it all worked out and they experienced a blind match themselves.

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Based on the experiences and discussions of the previous days, DISCOVER FOOTBALL will eventually develop and enhance strategies and demands on how to strengthen the participation of women and minority groups in football.

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