Take five: “Roller derby and sport, in general, is empowering for women”.

Date: Monday, July 2, 2018

 
Noha Eid is a member of The CaiRollers, an all-female roller derby team in Cairo, Egypt. Photo: UN Women/Yasmin Labidi

 

Noha Eïd is a member of The CaiRollers, the first and only roller derby league in Egypt. She works full time for an advertisement agency and is committed to her career, but still finds time to play roller derby. She tells us about what practicing a sport has brought to her life, why she is passionate about it and why she encourages women and girls to invest time in pursuing sports.

How did you start playing roller derby?

At the beginning, I didn’t like roller derby. It was a challenge - I was just turning thirty and I decided to celebrate my birthday in a different way that year by doing something I really disliked. I thought that Roller Derby would be everything I disliked – I had heard about it from a friend. I do not like contact with other people, to be aggressive, to fall down. I dislike not to be in control, on skates all the time. So I tried it because it was challenging for me. But after some time, I started liking the game and I learned a lot. I invested a lot in this game and I became passionate about it.

How did the people around you react? Your family, your friends?

My family still thinks that this sport is not for me because I am a woman, and that I shouldn’t have to play such a tough game. Whenever my mum sees me with bruises, she worries for me: “Oh my gosh, you need to stop!” She worries for my body, my beauty, but I do not care about being beautiful. This is who I am and I genuinely want to play this game.

What does playing Roller Derby bring to you and your teammates?

Playing roller derby has brought me a lot - not just on the track, but in life in general.  I remember one of the first lessons during which I learned how to fall and to stand up again quickly. It is a metaphor for life because we fall many times and we will have to get up again. There is also the social aspect - the team is like a sisterhood. It is not exclusive to Egypt, it is a worldwide network. Sometimes we have a player from the Netherlands or the US coming to skate with us. I like that spirit, that sense of community wherever I go.

As a woman playing a traditionally male sports type, a contact sport, how do you think society, in general, sees it?

People are often interested when they hear that I play roller derby.  They seem to think that I am rebellious, that I want to break all the rules. This is not true; I just want to break the wrong rules. I think there is nothing that women cannot do, as long as they want to do it.

Being an example for other people is very interesting, especially for women. I know that women have a problem in the Middle East and worldwide: our world is oriented towards men, whether we accept it or not, this is a world ruled by men. We might face more acute issues in this region than elsewhere.

How do you think roller derby can inspire girls and women in the Arab region?

When young girls see older women doing what they want in life, playing tough games, leaving the house for the sake of their careers, while still keeping in touch with their families, they can start thinking that it is possible to be independent without being confrontational. In Egypt, women are often afraid to undertake anything against their family’s will, which might lead to threats of cutting off family relations. If these women observe other women living their lives with greater freedom, they may do the same. This is a very good example for them.  

In this sense, I believe that roller derby, and sport in general, is empowering for women. You know yourself and your abilities better and you achieve a deeper awareness of your mental and emotional inner self and how you can achieve your goals. Sport helps you to focus and understand what you want in your life. You will have a vision, a plan. Above all, it gives you the will to achieve whatever you desire in life. This is true for all sports in general. It makes you feel better, think more clearly and differently. So my message to women and girls who want to practice a sport is: just do it, it is a good investment of your time and energy!

The Cairollers team. Photo: Michael Glavanis

Roller Derby is a full-contact sport, originally designed for women and now played around the world. Roller Derby gets its name from the fact that all the players wear roller skates, making it a very fast and exciting game for players and spectators. Two teams compete against each other, with five players on each side. There is no ball, but a “jammer” -  a player who goes through the two teams in order to score points. The other four players’ mission is to block the jammer from the opposing team and to help their own team’s jammer to go through the other team.