Regina Marcel, 24, is part of the Future Stars Academy in Arusha, Tanzania, and is a girl’s football coach. Regina belongs to the Equal Playing Field initiative - in June 2017 she joined female athletes from around the world to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and set the Guinness World Record for the highest altitude football match ever played. This summer EPF will aim to break a third world record at the Festival of Football with the largest number of players playing in a single game (3,000+) in Lyon, France.
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
In the photos there are Future Stars Academy (FSA) players – I coach some of them. I took photos during FSA training and also at a league for primary school kids. There are also other girls from one of the primary schools that I used to coach. When I was coaching I also saw other small kids playing outside their home.
Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I tried to show real life in the area I come from. I grew up in Arusha where the football opportunities were very limited. There was not money to buy gear, but I got the opportunity to play football because of FSA. Football contributes to happiness for many people here - also for kids who don’t have a lot of joy in their life.
The photos are a mix of training at FSA but also from poor schools and areas where people enjoy playing with what they have. There are boys and girls playing together and they were very happy. It explains a lot about equality.
Are there any good stories connected with the people or teams you photographed?
There are photos of little Maasai kids playing with a local ball - a football made out of paper, plastic, rope and rubber. A lot of Tanzanian players use that local ball due to lack of footballs. That ball reminds me of a lot because I used to play with that ball when I was young.
In every local place (an open space within a neighbourhood that kids use to play football) in Tanzania kids are using that ball. There are no marked lines, no goal posts and or nets so the kids will use stones, shirts, bags or sticks to make goals.
What are the opportunities for female footballers in Tanzania?
The opportunities are limited but we are working hard to improve them. Among others, FSA really does a lot of work to improve football, including for girls, and at the same time ensures that the kids go to school. They always work with the rule "No school, No play" which I find very crucial.
Why is football so important for Tanzania and Tanzanian people?
Football is a source of joy and hope. Football makes people smile and we see that all over the world. That is also the case in Tanzania and Arusha, where football very often is a way, especially for unfortunate kids, to dream and feel happiness.
What role does football play in Tanzania and Tanzanian society?
Even though Tanzania does not have a proud international history, football is still a very important sport. Not only for the elite but also for the general population in the country. Especially in poor areas football means a whole lot.
What does football mean to you?
Football is an important part of my life. First of all I just love to play myself, but I also enjoy seeing how other people find joy with the game. I enjoy coaching other girls and seeing them improve their skills, no matter what level they are. Football makes me smile.
What is the future for Tanzanian women's football?
I hope for a bright future and I will do my best to contribute to that development. It's never easy to change things, but FSA and other organisations are working hard to include girls in training and activities. That is very important to keep up development in a country like Tanzania, where football traditions are not very linked to women and girls.