More than Sports: Türkiyemspor Berlin Women’s Soccer Team

Since 2004, the Türkiyemspor Berlin e.V. club also has a department for girls and women. While soccer takes center stage, the individuals who run the club intent to reach out further. The club sees sports as an opportunity to launch discussions about the everyday issues facing girls and women and also promotes greater societal involvement. Aylin Yavaş met the co-heads, Giovanna Krüger and Murat Doğan, and spoke with them about the motley and colorful women’s’ soccer offered at Türkiyemspor Berlin.

Women’s football is not looked at in the way that the soccer played by men is. How did you come up with the idea of offering it in your sports club?

Murat: When I opened a new club branch 11 or 12 years ago, some of the fathers asked if we would be offering soccer for girls. These were, by the way, first generation fathers from whom we wouldn’t necessarily have expected such a request. So that’s how we started.

Giovanna: We wanted to accommodate the enthusiasm of the girls for soccer and build up a long-term project for them. We started with a girls’ D team; back then there were four or five girls between the ages of nine and eleven. The idea was to start with young girls and continue to build the team year by year, you know, the little ones grow older and proceed to the next age group and so on and so forth.

Murat: In the beginning, we had a difficult time recruiting interested women. While there were some who had played soccer before, there were no female coaches at all. I didn’t have much choice in the matter so I decided to step up and offer my services. And then I just stuck with it – but we made a virtue out of necessity.

TeamsSep2013Giovanna: The objective was – and still is – to employ female coaches to serve as role models. In the meantime, 170 girls and women play for the club and that’s because we now have a large number of female coaches.

Murat: We’ve been offering soccer for women for 12 years now: We have been able to do so with women coaches because we train them ourselves. We have female coaches who grew up in the club and are very qualified. The young girls are totally in love with them; they imitate and learn from them.

Giovanna: In the beginning, we had problems scheduling field time and getting playing opportunities. We were seen as intruders to the men’s world and they felt like we were taking something away from them. They weren’t interested in sharing. We had to fight but over time things worked out. Gradually we managed to start additional youth teams because our approach was popular. After all, our objectives went beyond sports: We wanted to get girls together. All kinds of girls meet up here at the sports club: We have poor, rich, heavy, skinny, black and white girls. We have talented girls and those who aren’t cut out for soccer at all – you name it and we’ve got it. And that’s a really nice thing – there’s a special kind of magic here.

To put it simply: So why should young girls play soccer?

Giovanna: In a nutshell: Self-respect, a whole lot of self-respect. These girls are often involved in their everyday school routine and in their family lives. I happen to think it’s important that they also become active in a team like this, outside of their school and family, and that they meet other people they wouldn’t otherwise meet.

Family and school can’t offer what soccer brings along: physical activity, freeing up one’s head, creating new freedoms, celebrating own successes and having fun; learning how to assert oneself, gritting one’s teeth and fighting, as well as taking a deep breath and carrying on even though you’re exhausted. All of this is definitely forming and strengthening these girls.

DSC_1720Your sports club is also known for its social projects. How do you organize your work in this area?

Giovanna: First of all, we have very many girls here; it’s inevitable that you’ll also hear stories about violence, oppression and abuse. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. It is then up to us what we do with this information. Occasionally a boyfriend will come along and try to forbid something…or a brother, a father and so forth. It poses a challenge for us. We pick up on what is happening around us at the moment and use that to work with. We don’t have the time to come up with elaborate concepts and apply for project funds. We do a lot of things off the cuff. We act, we move, we get things done.

Murat: The girls come to us with all of their problems. You can’t just tell them: We’re just a sports club, that’s none of our business. We commemorate Hatun Sürücü, the young woman murdered in February 2005 by family members due to her lifestyle, and hold a soccer tournament. We always carry out some kind of campaign – developed by the players – as part of the tournament. For example, we organized a poster project a few years ago right in the middle of Kreuzberg at Kottbusser Tor: Lots of questions were printed on the posters which were then hung up for display. There were quite a few provocative questions, like: ‘Why does my brother have more freedoms than I do?’, ‘Why can’t I love whoever I want?’ or ‘Am I of less value?’ We posed altogether 15 such questions and presented them in five languages. Many people were interested and just stood there in front of them and we could observe their reactions and see that they were giving them a lot of thought.

Giovanna: A lot things crossed their minds as we sat together with them and came up with the questions. It was similar this year: We conceived a role-playing game in which there were different, ever-changing characters and a returning girl character who wanted to play soccer. The cool brother appears, then the strict brother, then the indifferent father and finally the very strict father. The girls really enjoyed this, too, and it was thought-provoking.

Murat: Basically, exclusion is the main topic that we are confronted with time and again. Homophobia, for instance – we work together with various organizations on this topic.

Does that mean that the club also shows the girls how they can become socially engaged?

Giovanna: Yes, absolutely. As the discussion about the ever-increasing rents in Kreuzberg was revived, for example, we hit the streets with our football girls. We did this to show them that they, too, can become politically active. We showed them how they are directly affected by this… how their parents helped establish this district from which they are now being displaced. This also opened their eyes to the fact that they don’t have to be afraid of demonstrations. All they have to do is listen to the demands being made and, if they so choose, also join up.

The association also works together with the anti-Nazi network. Can soccer play a role in helping girls fight against racism and prejudice in day-to-day life?

Murat: That’s hard to say. At any rate, football can draw attention to these prejudices and racism.

Giovanna: The girls gain experience handling prejudice and certain forms of discussions. For instance, if someone asks something like: ‘Why do you play football?’ The girls learn to assert themselves. And talking about certain topics helps them – perhaps even subconsciously – to apply some of these skills in connection with other kinds of prejudiced thinking. I believe that just by their living a certain, different way – as soccer playing girls – sensitizes them to prejudice and racism to a certain degree.