Monday, 10 July 2017
Female footballers break world record for highest ever football match
Having climbed up Africa's highest mountain, taking goal posts and nets in tow, a group of fearless women have achieved what many thought impossible and played a 90-minute football match on Mount Kilimanjaro. The squad of 30 footballers representing 20 nationalities, who included retired US international Lori Lindsey and former England midfielder Rachel Unitt, completed a 11-a-side match at nearly 19,000 feet, an altitude never attempted before.
Using flour to mark the pitch and trekking poles as corner flags, the women -- ranging in ages, from 18 to 66 years old -- played in punishing conditions on a volcanic ash pitch.
The game -- between Volcano FC and Glacier FC -- ended goalless, but the result was inconsequential as the sole purpose of the challenge was to highlight the inequality women face in sport. American defender Erin Blankenship, co-founder of event organizers Equal Playing Fields, said: "You can't challenge the fact that you've got a group of athletes who are playing at almost 19,000ft. It doesn't matter what gender they are."
Olympic champion Lindsey, who played for USA at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 London Olympics, was one of the star players taking part. She was keen to raise awareness of the issues women and girls face when playing sport.
"I'm fortunate enough to have had pioneers who came before me, but it's our responsibility to continue to make strides forward for the generations to come," she told CNN Sport before embarking on the trip.
Playing in thin air, which causes a reduction in physical performance, isn't easy.
In May 2007, FIFA -- football's world governing body -- introduced a temporary ban, revoked a year later, on international matches at more than 8,200ft above sea level, citing concerns about players' health and the "unfair" advantage to acclimatized home teams.
Earlier in 2007, Brazilian club Flamengo had said it would boycott high-altitude games after a match at 12,467 ft -- against Bolivia's Real Potosi -- left some team members needing oxygen.
"We made a pact before the game that it was all about the game finishing," said Glacier FC coach Dawn Scott.
"It was equal opportunities and we termed the substitutes coming on as record makers as they'd be the ones pushing us on because you could see players dropping and needing oxygen towards the end."