Tuesday 26 February 2019, 07:00

The former pro helping refugee girls shine

  • Former pro footballer Tugba Tekkal created 'Scoring Girls' project in 2016

  • Focus on collective sport to foster team and community spirit

  • 'Scoring Girls' offers girls free football training once a week

When you talk to Tugba Tekkal, you can immediately tell how much she loves football and sense the passion that drives her project 'Scoring Girls'. Together with her sister Duzen Tekkal, she founded a charitable association for humanitarian aid called Háwar.help, but even then, she was still wondering what else she could do to contribute.

"I found a lot of offers for boys but none for girls and so I thought that I could start up a football project purely for girls," the former German league player explains to FIFA.com. "For me it was clear from the outset that I wanted to reach out to all girls – not just those in refugee accommodation, but also German girls who are in difficult circumstances.

"First of all, I’m the child of immigrants who came here to work, and secondly I’m from a big family. We never had any prospects financially so it was important for me to reach out to both types of girls. The idea was originally just to show my gratitude and try to give something back."

Although from an immigrant background with Kurdish Yazidi roots, Tekkal was born in Germany. And to realise her dream of playing football at the highest level, she had to fight incredibly hard. "For my parents it was particularly tough that their girl suddenly started to play football and develop a passion for something. The first discrimination I had to face was at home," says Tekkal, who played for FC Koln among other clubs.

These are the types of battles that she is now having to fight on behalf of "her girls". Throughout the implementation of her integration project that she began in October 2016 in Cologne, the 33-year-old has constantly met with opposition from parents.

"It was clear to me from the outset that I would have to convince the parents. Refugee girls come from countries where it’s not 'normal' for girls to play football. It hasn’t always been easy to explain to parents why their daughter should be allowed to play football in Germany. That was tough, since they’ve got a whole lot of other problems and worries on their plates.

"They think that sport and fun and games won’t help them out. I had to explain that it is really is important to give the girls an outlet as it will give them enormous amounts of self-confidence. Plenty of the girls I come across are now capable of going with their parents when they have to meet with administrative authorities. They would never have had the courage to do that before but football has given then a new source of strength."

Words like those once again show that power of integration that football has and the values it can help to foster, such as discipline, team spirit, ambition and self-belief.

"I also think it’s great that the girls now have completely different goals from what they had at the beginning. At the outset they were pretty modest, such as just wanting to be part of something bigger. Now they’re aiming higher because I tell them about women who’ve gone on to be successful.

"They can see that the current German chancellor is a woman along with others that are journalists and judges. In the countries that they come from, a lot of the time it was not normal for women to have their say and be seen as equals."

The aforementioned German chancellor has come to visit the Scoring Girls, and Tekkal and her girls had the chance to present to her their sport and integration project, while Nadine Angerer, former German international goalkeeper and FIFA Women’s World Footballer of the Year 2013, is another keen supporter.

"I recently met Bibiana Steinhaus who had done a lot of research in advance on the work that we do and thought that we deserved support. She wrote to me saying that she’d like to help," said Tekkal with a smile.

"All this obviously gives the subject a lot of exposure. When the chancellor came, none of the parents were complaining any more – they all went and hung up the newspaper article of the visit in their living rooms. It was clearly a special moment for them as well."

Tugba Tekkal - Scoring Girls

Tekkal can be genuinely proud of herself and her work, which is illustrated not just by the prominent supporters she has acquired, but primarily through the successes that her girls have achieved.

"One of my girls saw her own father die. She told me about how she came to Germany and almost drowned on the way. She found alert whistles from people who had already died and those were what saved her," she says. "This girl has gone on to play for a club and is an incredibly gifted footballer.

"She’s a fighter, but she still needed someone to take her by the hand. When she first came to me, she was very shy – obviously. You always need people who believe in you, who will stand with you and take you by the hand. But at the end of the day, it’s down to your own will-power and ambition."