Female athletes know what it’s like to be pushed to the limit. The battles they have fought just to gain a place in a male-dominated field (no pun intended) are enormous.
A group of sportswomen is proving yet again that their strength is far more than just physical. The women are currently planning an attempt to not only scale Mount Kilimanjaro, but, at thousands of feet above sea level, to break the world record for the highest altitude game of competitive soccer ever played.
Their journey will last 10 days, during which the athletes will climb nearly 6,000 meters (19,330 feet). After reaching the summit, the women will descend back down 18,799 feet to play a 90 minute 11-a-side soccer game upon a volcanic ash pit.
The athletes come from 20 different nations and have banded together in order to achieve this amazing feat. Their ages range from 18 to 66, but they all have one common goal. Some notable names include retired U.S. international Lori Lindsey, former England midfielder Rachel Unitt, and former Mexico captain Monica Gonzalez.
37-year-old Lori Lindsey played in the 2012 Olympics for the U.S. and told CNN 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.” Lindsey and her fellow athletes hope that this event will raise awareness for issues that affect women and girls, specifically those involved in sports.
Lindsey also told CNN that she has yet to prepare with any special training, but knows that scaling Africa’s tallest mountain will be far from easy. Due to the high altitude, the athletes will have to be especially cautious while doing that much physical exertion.
The athletes have been raising money using the help of the organization Equal Playing Field, as they need to take with them not only the players themselves, but coaches, FIFA referees, and medical staff. Lindsey became outspoken about the fact that fundraising was even necessary; she believes that in and of itself proves the disparity between men and women, especially in the sports world.
The U.S. Women’s Soccer team was recently involved in a dispute over the wage gap between male and female players which might help to illuminate why the women feel the climb is necessary. The criticism was that male soccer players earned more than well-known, high-profile female players Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Hope Solo. The U.S. women’s soccer team was ranked number one for several years and has three World Cup titles, making it the most successful international women’s soccer team. The U.S. men’s team, which was being paid more, has never won the World Cup.
“Men in general aren’t raising money for equality,” Lindsey says. “Men aren’t climbing for equality. They have it.”
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